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Nine Lives

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Stray Cat Strut


Dancing at the Bronze; one of Xander's favorite things, even though he doesn’t dance all that well. It's still a release, something physical to do when pounding something is out of the question and sex is…well, when sex feels like it's never gonna happen. But sometimes you just have to move, and then dancing is a good thing, even if you feel a bit lumpish and awkward.

Of course, when you're dancing with Buffy and Willow it's all good, because Buffy is so pretty and so coordinated that mostly people watch her. And Willow is so shy that her moves are worse than Xander's. And that brings a little flush of shame to Xander's face, for being happy that Willow is doing something badly, but she does everything else so well, and always has. So he keeps that little bit of petty triumph to himself and wishes, not for the first time, that he had Slayer-grace and Slayer-balance so he could do…that.

"Where's the phone, I gotta call the police, there's some guy tryin' to bite somebody…" A voice in the crowd, some sort of accent, and the Scoobies are on the move, off the dance floor and out the door. And Slayer-body specialness kicks into overdrive and in a minute he and Willow are dragging the dazed girl inside, and Xander is scrabbling through Buffy's purse for a stake.

Not a stake. Oh, yo-yo…also not a - ah! Not a stake! Xander fumbles the uber-girly item back into the purse and finally, a stake. He darts back outside. In minutes the vamp is dust and then there's the clapping.

Wait. Clapping? Is there a fan-club now?

But no, no fan club. Just a guy - very blond, very pale - stepping out of the shadows and calmly announcing, in that same accent, that he's gonna kill Buffy. Xander just stares at him, 'cause this guy - this vamp - is… different. Most vamps snarl and spit and glare out at you with the demon, all strange ridges and yellow-glaring eyes. This vamp is in his human face, a sharply angled face with platinum hair combed back and gelled down, with a sardonic twist to red lips and a black leather coat that flares out and snaps as the vamp vanishes into the shadows.

Xander is wigged.

Buffy is wigged, and then so is Willow when they tell her what happened. All three just want to get home, after that, and the French lesson and the dancing are over. That finely-boned face intrudes into Xander's thought process for the rest of the night.


I'm being dragged through the halls of my school by a vampire. In a headlock. Sooo embarrassing. Does this position make my ass look fat? Xander rolls mental eyes. Spending way too much time with Cordelia, that much is obvious. And then what? I'll get handed off to the psycho-vamp who's currently ruining - well, okay, thankfully ending - a perfectly respectable Parent/Teacher thing? With Slayer-made lemonade. What the hell?! Angel is supposed to be a good guy! Is he just gonna use me to batter the doors open? Or…am I gonna be a 'Welcome to the Hellmouth' snack? Or….

Xander's brain is currently working at about twice normal speed, and it isn't helping at all. It's hard enough to breathe while being yanked along by a preternaturally strong arm around your throat, but toss in bent over at a funny angle and having to practically run, it all added up to breathless and giddy. And not good-giddy, but the bad, bad giddy that comes in the aftermath of car crashes, parental smack-downs, or fear-for-your-life Hellmouth moments. Only this isn't the aftermath, it's just the beginning, so Xander is blaming his current mental gibbering on lack of oxygen and betrayal.

Not that he hadn't expected betrayal out of Angel, at some point. After all, Vampire! But he hadn't really expected it would be so blatant. And so…hurtful.

Evil undead guy. Evil undead liar guy. Knew it.

Xander stumbles a little over the threshold and then they're in the halls, and he can see two vampires with long poles, poking them up into the ceiling.

What the…?

Angel tenses all over, and Xander claws at his leather-clad arm, trying to get more air. He stares at the vampires - watches as one of them stiffens, turns, and then comes forward.

"Angelus!" the vampire is saying - and Xander realizes it's that vampire - the one from behind the Bronze the night before. The one that had said he was going to kill Buffy. Spike. Smaller then Angel, but walking as if he owns the hallway - the school. Walking in a calculated, calculating strut that makes you forget he is short, and a little thin. The vaguely feline cast of the demon's features are twisted in a wide, mocking grin, the yellow eyes spark malice and amusement. Xander shivers in Angel's strangle-hold - catches a look from Spike that makes him go still instantly. Like a mouse under the eye of a hawk. Spike hugs Angel and Xander is momentarily enveloped in leather and silk, pressed hard enough into his face to make him gasp a little. Washboard abdomen against his cheek and then the vampire pulls away. Spike is saying something to Angel about the Slayer, and Xander jerks as he feels a cold finger tracing over his shoulder.

He's touching me! There's not supposed to be touching! Angel, damnit, hit him! Why is he touching me? Ahhh…!

The cold fingers have slipped in under his collar - are pressing just a little at the nape of his neck. Xander twists his head, trying to see what the hell is going on and catches Spike staring straight at him. It is not…nice. Suddenly Angel grabs Xander's head and pushes it down, yanking his collar back and exposing his neck to Spike's fangs - inviting Spike to bite him.

If I live through this I'm gonna kick Angel's butt. Fuck! What the hell is he doing?

The cold fingers are back, stroking gently along his hairline, then sliding down and down until a hand grips his bicep like a steel vice. Xander feels Angel bending - senses Spike getting closer. The hairs on the back of his neck are prickling, prickling, and if he hadn't been half-strangled and totally wigged out he would have screamed. As it is he's wholly unprepared for the sudden, ferocious punch that Spike sends straight into Angel's jaw. Angel flies backward, losing his hold on Xander's neck - oh thank God! and Xander feels himself being jerked forward - around - the hand on his arm biting deep.

Frying pan and fire thing! Spike! Has my arm!

Xander struggles, yanking desperately, but he may as well be trying to pull away from a statue. There is no give whatsoever. Angel is against the wall, Spike is ranting something about -

Yoda? What the hell?

And then suddenly all the vamps are running up the hall, pelting after Angel and Xander feels as if the blood in his veins has suddenly turned to ice.

He left me! Fucker! I can't believe -!

"You're that boy - friend of the Slayer's." Spike, way too close, still holding his bicep in a crushing grip, head cocked a little to one side.

"Yeah - and she's gonna kick your undead ass."

Spike laughs. "You think? You think she'll get here in time to save you? I mean, Angelus left you, didn't he. That wanker." Spike looks at him; looks him up and down and suddenly the vamp-face is gone, shifting away and leaving only the human face from the alley. Cheekbones and black eyebrows and eyes bluer then any Xander's ever seen. Lip twisting up in an amused smirk. "Tell me. Just what were you doing here with the Great Poof? You two…mates?"

"What? No! I mean - yeah, we're great friends, we're…w-we hang out all the time and he's gonna kick your ass, too, unless you let me go!" Xander wonders if that sounds as pathetic to Spike as it does to him. Damnit Angel, how could you just run out!

"Oh, yeah - I can see that." Spike looks him up and down again - leans in and -

Sniffing? Is he sniffing me? What the -! "Hey! Hey! No sniffing ! Back off!"

"You don’t smell like him one bit. You smell like…." The vampire leans in closer, his other hand suddenly gripping the back of Xander's neck, and Xander freezes. Spike's face is inches from his - then actually touching him as the vampire very gently presses his lips to Xander's throat; the place, Xander assumes, where a vampire bites you. The lips are cold - very soft - and they don't move at all, just press there, and Xander has time to notice the rich leather smell of the coat, the barber-shop smell of whatever stuff Spike used to slick back his hair; cigarette smoke and some kind of perfume maybe, very faint. And…something. Lemon and musk and an iron-metal smell that must be blood. Something smoky-sweet, like the hash that Jesse got last year from an older cousin. Thick burnt-sugar smell that catches in the back of Xander's throat. Spike pulls back suddenly, and his eyes are half closed, dark.

"You smell like…chocolate. And…." Spike stops talking, head to one side, listening, and Xander can see Buffy behind him, coming up the hallway. Suddenly Spike grins and turns around, dragging Xander with him, leather-clad arm choking him just like Angel and Xander can't believe this is happening to him again. Buffy is saying something, and Spike is saying something, but Xander can't really concentrate on what they're saying, because he can feel the cool, hard body of the vampire pressed all along his back. Can feel - something - pressed tight into his ass.

Oh my God, oh my God, he's…this is turning him on, oh fuck, why do I have to be squashed up against a horny male vampire?

Xander tries to wiggle away - realizes belatedly that that might actually be mistaken as encouraging and freezes again. One of Spike's hands goes from Xander's shoulder to his ribs to his waist and ends up on his hip, a caressing, possessive move that makes Xander shiver all over. Then he's being pushed away, hard, into a bank of lockers and his head raps rather sharply into metal and he slides down the locker, looking fuzzily at Buffy and Spike as they fight. Kick and punch, whirl and duck, and suddenly Spike has a piece of board in his hand, wrenched out of the wall and he's this close, this close to bringing it down on Buffy's head when Joyce - go Buffy's mom! - pops up from out of nowhere and clocks the vampire in the head with an axe.

Spike goes down and Joyce gives him a great kind of 'Dirty Harry' line. Or something; Xander's head is still spinning a bit. Then the vampire is up and moving, heading out. As he darts past Xander his head turns, catching Xander's gaze squarely and he winks! Winks at Xander and is gone, out of the school. Xander just sprawls there, staring after him, peripherally aware of Buffy and her mom having a nice sort of Hellmouth Hallmark moment, and then Buffy is pulling him up from the floor, giving him a funny look and asking if he's okay, and Xander is nodding and rubbing his sore head and wondering where Willow is, and it's all over.

When Xander finds Willow and Cordelia in the utility closet Willow grabs him and hugs him, and when they check up on Giles and Ms. Calendar in the library Angel is there, looking a bit hang-dog and muttering what might pass for an apology if you were three. But Xander is still feeling fuzzy, and all he can think about is Spike, and what he said, and what he did, and how he didn't trust Angel, either, and how pissed he'd been that Angel had tried to trick him and how soft his lips had been, just touching Xander's throat, almost like a kiss.

"Xander!" Xander jerks - blinks - and Cordelia is standing there, hand on hip, looking annoyed. "I said, did you need a ride home? Mr. Giles said there might be more vampires roaming around." Xander pushes his hand back through his hair and grins at Cordelia.

"Yeah, a ride would be great. Thanks." Cordelia scowls at him and stomps off, and Xander follows her. Buffy and her mom are already gone, and Giles is apparently taking Willow home. Angel...who cares? Xander rides in silence with Cordelia, letting her talk wash over and through him, nodding and making small sounds but not really hearing anything she's saying. Just seeing that loose-hipped walk as Spike had come up the hallway towards Angel. Seeing those eyes, too blue to be real, staring at him. Unconsciously, his hand goes up to his neck and touches the spot where Spike put his mouth, and he feels a tingle like pins and needles all through his body. The car goes over a bump and Xander blinks - looks around. He's a half-block from his house, and he suddenly doesn't want Cordelia to see the peeling paint and the unkempt yard.

"Hey, here's good, just drop me here." Cordelia looks at him, her dark eyes narrowed in suspicion. "My dad gets up early, don't want to disturb him with car noises, you know?"

"Oh. Sure." Cordelia hits the brakes and they glide to a stop. Xander untangles himself from the seatbelt and slides out, and before he can say another word Cordelia is gone, breaking the speed-limit out of his neighborhood, as if she could get white-trash cooties or something.

Nice to know I've got something you don't, Cordy! Xander thinks, and then begins to walk up the sidewalk, hands in pockets and head down. He can't seem to get the vampire out of his mind - can't seem to shake the night off. He feels - restless - and doesn’t know why.

Evil soulless undead monster. Can't believe he was sniffing me! I smell like chocolate? Haven't even had any today. Oh, no, wait, had some at lunch...but I've brushed my teeth since then! Weird. Maybe I've got chocolate in my blood. Maybe I'd taste like…No, not going there.

Xander kicks at some weeds sprouting up through the sidewalk - flinches at a noise off to his left, something in the wilderness of flowers and shrubs that is Mrs. Montoya's yard. Something moving there, a pale blur, and Xander squints, heart pounding a little faster. Then he relaxes as a big yellow cat slides between the pickets and onto the sidewalk. He's a big tom, mostly marmalade with white underneath and a white patch on his forehead and nose. He's got half an ear missing and he won't let you touch him - king of the strays, in this neighborhood. Xander watches him as he pauses for a moment to stare at the human blocking his path. And then the tom - everybody calls him Old Yeller - flicks his tail and sashays up the sidewalk.

No, that's a strut. Stray-cat strut, and that's exactly what Spike did tonight. Just like Old Yeller. Doesn't give a fuck, owns the world - king of all he surveys. Heh. Wonder if his hair is as soft as cat-fur…. And why would I care if it is? Not gonna touch vampire-hair! Old Yeller glares as he saunters by, and Xander grins at him and continues down the sidewalk, mind already wandering back to -

"D'you think maybe you taste like chocolate?" purrs out of the shadows and Xander's heart does a thump-stop-thumpthumpthump, and he barely keeps himself from screaming.

Can vampires read your mind? Damnit! Why do the evil undead get all the sneakiness? Why can't they be clumsy and knocking over trashcans or something! And how the hell did he find me? Is he…following me?

Xander glances frantically around, hoping for a police car - in your dreams! - or something he can use as a weapon. Anything. But there's nothing and Spike is doing that walk, that strut, out of the dense shadow of a magnolia tree, up the sidewalk and straight at him. Sudden snick and flare of light, and he's lighting a cigarette - holding it in his left hand and blowing smoke up into the air.

"Think you wanna give me a taste, Slayer's boy?" Spike purrs, and Xander feels a suicidal rush of resentment at that.

"I'm not her boy, I'm nobody's - boy." That doesn't come out quite the way he thinks it should, and Spike is looking at him, head to one side, eyebrow up like Spock, and Xander notices that there's a scar there, white against the black hairs.

"You could be my boy - would you like that, pretty?"

"Whaaat?" Xander gasps, the full impact of that sentence hitting him. Be his boy - what, be a vamp? Or does he mean - something else? He was all…turned on at the school - is that what he means? Gay vampire? Oh my God, I'm being stalked by a gay vampire! Only me.

Another voice, so quiet that Xander barely notices it, says, He thinks I'm pretty, but that voice is trampled under in moments.

"No, I don't wanna be your - boy, and what the hell does that mean, anyway? If you're gonna kill me just do it, already!" It's been a long and - different - kind of night, difficult night, and Xander is tired of games, now. Tired of being scared out of his wits every ten minutes and turned on! in between the terror. It's exhausting and way, way too confusing and he just wants it to be over, now. Either he gets away, or he gets killed - something - but he won't have to put up with this…confusion any more.

"Oh, I'm not gonna kill you. Why spoil my fun? You're so…."

How the hell did he get so close so fast? Oh fuck, I am so dead. I hope Buffy can stake his ass for me…and with the sniffing again!

Xander jerks back from the vampire, his hands going up reflexively. "What the hell is it with you and the sniffing thing, man! Cut it out!"

"But you smell delicious, pet," Spike murmurs, and his hands are on Xander's arms, pressing into the bruises there that Xander got earlier, pulling him close. "You smell like chocolate and like…apples and…." Spike's eyes dart up to his, amused and sly. "And like sex. You like me, pet?"

"I - No! And I'm not a pet, and I'm not - not your boy! Just leave me alone or- or kill me!" The vampire chuckles, down low in his chest. Then his lips are on Xander's throat again, but this time they are kissing, and there's the tip of a cool, wet tongue, and one hand is sliding up into Xander's hair and one is curling into the small of his back, pulling him close, pressing him against silk and denim and lean, hard muscles and….

And he's hard again! Or, still hard. Oh man, what does he - And then Xander stops thinking about anything at all as the soft lips and cool tongue find his and he's being kissed, kissed like he's never been before; rough and deep and demanding and sweet, somehow, and Xander's hands clutch frantically at slick leather and silk, trying to get closer and trying to get away at the same time.

Is that even possible? Oh God, oh good, that's…good…that's…vampire kisses, oh fuck, wonder if Angel kisses like this, no wonder Buffy -

Spike is pulling away, his eyes dark and wide and his lips gleaming wetly. He runs one hand up the side of Xander's face and back through his hair, pushing it back and tugging ever so gently on it.

"Taste like chocolate, too," he murmurs, and then he bends and picks up the cigarette he dropped and is walking away - strutting away - coat snapping around his ankles. Xander just stands there, imprint of Spike's body all down his, lips tingling and head whirling and his hands going out in a useless attempt to keep the vampire there.

After a long moment, Xander hears a car engine rev somewhere down the street. It's rough and loud and there's music blasting over it. A dark shape hurtles up the street - black bulk of a car, no lights, window down and pale figure at the wheel - momentary gleam of red as the cherry of a cigarette flares. Then the car is gone, music and engine-growl fading, and Xander stumbles home, easing in through the front door and slipping up to his room. Spike - had tasted like smoke and blood and, could that have been lemonade? and Xander goes to bed without brushing his teeth.



Cat's Eyes


Cat's eyes, watching him in the gloom and Xander shivers, watching them back. Not really cat's eyes. Demon's eyes, and that should make the shiver worse but it doesn't. Or it does, but worse isn't the word that Xander would use. He steps across the mansion's leaf-strewn courtyard, ignoring the remains of something off in the corner. Looks like something Drusilla has been playing with, and he dismisses it from his mind, because he doesn't want to see it, not really.

And he shouldn't be here - understatement of the year! - but he has to be. Because being here is helping Buffy, and the Scooby gang. Being here is Saving the World. Even though they really wouldn't get it. Xander's not exactly sure that he gets it, but it makes these little trips possible. Befriend the Hurt Vampire and He Won't Kill Your Friends. Or something like that. You take what you can get on the Hellmouth. Even if you have to hide if from your best friend.

So he's here on a secret mission, and that makes him giggle just a little hysterically, and the cat's eyes demon's eyes blink. There is the sulphurous flare of a Lucifer match and the gloom is suddenly thick with shadows. Shadows, and one very solid not-shadow, and that's Spike, stretching out from his seat in the wheelchair, match-head to candle-wick. A quick shake, and the blackened match goes skittering away across the floor. Xander follows it with his eyes, then looks back up and the cat's eyes are now human eyes, shadowed and dark with pain. Or something else. Crinkling at the corners just a tiny bit, internal laughter, because Xander was giggling and giggling isn't supposed to happen in the lair of three of the most dangerous vampires on earth.

"What?" Xander asks and Spike shakes his head - holds out his hand and Xander walks slowly across the room to him, glancing at the long table down the center that's laid out with all manner of strange and grisly things. More stuff he doesn't really want to see.

"What's goin' on in that head?" Spike asks when Xander gets close, and then Xander can see the marks on his neck; scratch marks, a bruise - a bruise along one impossibly high and sharp-edged cheekbone. Xander sucks in a small, sympathetic breath and can't stop his finger from going out and touching the bruise, pressing ever so lightly, and Spike pushes into the touch, just a little. Spike's fingers on his hip, rubbing.

"That fucker." Xander murmurs, and they both know who he means. Angel, even though Buffy and Giles and the rest insist on Angelus. As if that makes it all better, somehow. As far as Xander is concerned, Angel is Angelus - just a wolf in cheap clothing - and he won't shed a tear when Buffy stakes his miserable black heart. If she ever actually manages to do it, and that's another reason why Xander is here; Buffy's incredible lack of slayage concerning Angel.

This, however, will help - is helping, and Xander grins again, and Spike grins back, looking up at him with some emotion that Xander really can't - no, won't - identify sparkling in those demon-cat eyes. Even blue and human they hold all the hurt and rage of a prodigal son denied, and Xander just wants to chase that pain away. Wants, and can, and does, fairly often.

"Grab that." Spike says, gesturing to the candle, and Xander lifts it and follows as Spike wheels his way into the bedroom that's his and Drusilla's, although Drusilla hasn't been in this bedroom much at all, lately. More pain that Xander will do his best to soothe away. He puts the candle on the mantle of the cold fireplace and turns to Spike, who is by the bed now. Big bed, swathed in velvet and lace for Drusilla; made up in rich, soft cotton and heavy satin, for Drusilla. But she's spurning this luxury for the tumble of cheap poly-blend that Angel never changes or even straightens, and Xander likes to think that maybe Spike keeps the soft, rich bedclothes there for him, now. It's a nice thought, and one that he doesn't share.

Spike is stripping off his silk button-up shirt and black t-shirt, tossing them over a rickety, upright wooden chair that already holds his leather coat. He bends in the wheelchair and pushes his boots off, revealing bare, narrow feet and long toes. He does this, because they're doing their best to keep Xander's scent to a minimum. Not that Drusilla would notice, since lately she's so caught up in the end of the world and Angel/Angelus's little games that she doesn't seem to notice much of anything, at all. Certainly isn't noticing that Spike is quietly dying inside, every time she takes Angel's hand and saunters away with him, forgetting the hundred years Spike has spent following her moon-drunk notions and Miss Edith's edicts. One more reason to be here, as far as Xander is concerned. Angel is, happily, much too caught up in screwing with Buffy's head, and hasn't noticed a thing. Which is good, since he might actually do something where Drusilla might not.

Spike undoes the buttons of his jeans, and Xander steps closer to him, hands going out, ready to lift him and help him onto the bed. But Spike holds out his hand again, stopping him. "Look," he says, smiling just a little, and then slowly, so slowly, he pushes himself upright - out of the chair, onto his feet. He shoots a look of pure excitement at Xander who stands frozen, watching him. Carefully, inch by inch, Spike shuffles the two feet to the bed, and lowers himself down, eyebrows together in a little grimace that proves there's still pain. Which is kind of almost a relief, because when Spike is better - all better - Xander might just not ever get to come here again, and he's not sure he could take that.

Spike is grinning again, head up and eyes bright with happiness and Xander grins back, pushing his own insecurities, his own…needs down somewhere in the same place he keeps Jesse's death and his parents utter and unrelenting dismissal of him. Down where the hyena still lurks, just a little. It snaps up the dark thoughts and eats them, in a way; sin-eater for Xander's sometimes-troubled soul, and he's grateful for that, even if he still flinches when he thinks about what he almost did to Buffy.

"Spike! That's - great! When -"

"Yesterday. I tried yesterday and I could. Getting better, pet." Spike looks at him for a moment, head to one side, the grin fading to something - else - and Xander shivers, wondering.

Spike lays back on the bed and pushes at the jeans - shimmies his suddenly-mobile hips and kicks a little, and the jeans are a heap on the floor. He pulls himself up the bed, mostly using arms and shoulders, and Xander watches the muscles flex and roll under the smooth skin, old-ivory colored in the candle-light. Spike lays in the middle of the bed, arms behind his head, watching.

And suddenly Xander remembers that he's been hard since he crossed the mansion's threshold and he strips out of his clothes as fast as he can, tossing them down in a heap, putting a couple of necessary items on the mattress. Then he crawls onto the bed, down by Spike's feet. He crouches there, and takes Spike's ankles in his hands - lifts one foot, and then the other, putting soft kisses on the tops of them - running his thumbs along the high arches.

"Feel that?" he murmurs, and Spike nods, eyes wide. Xander continues upwards, slowly. Kissing ankle-bone and shin-bone, kneading the bunched muscles of the slender calves. And "Feel that? Feel that?" every few breaths. The same, since the first time, and it's only been a month since Spike could feel anything, down here.

At Spike's thighs, now, his knees pressing them together, his hands on Spike's hips, stroking over hip bone and the smooth, hard muscles of his abdomen. Ghosting little touches along the rigid length of Spike's erection and the vampire is breathing, now - sighing every time Xander touches him. Xander's own cock is pressed into the crease between Spike's thighs, and he rubs there a little, panting.

He leans down and trails his tongue over Spike; tasting the blood-salt flavor of pre-come, tasting the salt-musk flavor of his skin as he licks his way down and then back up. He wants to do more - so much more - but there's never time and after another minute he reaches for the lube he put on the bed and squeezes some out. He coats Spike in it; reaches behind himself and pushes one finger, then two, into himself - cursory preparation because he's ready for this, been ready for hours.

Been wanting it for hours, pacing in his room until the sun was down enough for Angel and Drusilla to leave. Watching from a safe distance as Angel had said something to Spike, leaned in close and pushed his hand through Spike's hair; wrenched his head back by that grip and kissed him, hard enough to draw blood. Then walking out with Dru on his arm, smirk and some comment tossed back over his shoulder and Spike wiping his mouth on his hand, looking as if he wanted to spit or scream or maybe just tear Angel into little shreds.

But now it's Xander, and Spike doesn't look furious, or frustrated. He looks - like one of those boys in the Calvin Klein ads, all mussed hair and sultry eyes, half-open mouth and Xander leans up and kisses him hard, fucking his mouth with his tongue, going deep so maybe he can get the taste of Angel out of Spike's mouth - can get the feel of him off of Spike's lips and replace it with his own. He creeps forward on his knees and holds Spike's cock in his hand, positions himself and pushes down, and Spike is inside him, one inch and then two - more - and Xander arches his back, gasping, his own cock jumping a little, wet and so hard. He grinds lower and opens his eyes wide in shock and acute pleasure as Spike's hips suddenly come up - not much, but some. Pressure, where there wasn't any before. Spike is frowning, his hands knotted in the satin duvet, and Xander is pretty sure this hurts him.

"Spike, that's…God.…" Xander rolls his hips a little - pushes more - and all of Spike is in him now, and he pauses for a moment and then starts to move, up and back, working himself and Spike, hand behind him to stroke and tug Spike's balls, his other hand sweeping over Spike's chest, scratching his nails along the curve of rib and the dip of the sternum. Tugging at hardened nipples until Spike groans and reaches up. Spike's hands on his hips, helping him, moving him harder, and Xander leans down for another kiss, letting Spike nip at his lips - break the skin just a little and suck the drops of blood that well up.

He's kissing the demon now, mindful of the razoring fangs but not that mindful. Letting Spike draw blood here and there, lips and tongue, just tiny pricks of heat and then the soothing lap of a cool tongue. Xander's hips are moving faster, slamming down onto the body beneath him, feeling the slight upward motion Spike is doing and reveling in it. He pulls back, sitting up, and Spike's hands are hurtfully tight on his hips - making bruises that he'll examine later in the mirror; touch when he masturbates in the shower before school. The vampire is panting now, making a soft, moaning sound in his throat and Xander bends a little, twisting. Gets one hand between Spike's legs and feels, pushes a finger into Spike, as deep as he can, and Spike goes rigid, trembling, mouth open on a drawn-out sound, keen of pleasure. Xander feels the muscles clench around his finger - harder than before - and he keeps moving, clenching his own muscles tight.

After long moments Spike is done, relaxing suddenly and completely on the bed, gasping. Xander reaches over for the condom - hates using it, but knows that his own semen would be too strong a smell to hide from Angel. He gets it on fast, trembling on the edge himself, and Spike reaches for him - pulls him down with one hand curling around the back of his neck, the other on his cock, pumping. Xander goes willingly, shivering, Spike still inside him and hard enough still to stretch him - fill him - and Xander turns his head to the side, offering.

The demon takes with a small snarl, fangs sinking into the top of Xander's shoulder, hard pull of his mouth and the blood is flowing out, a rush of sparks and shudders all over his body that makes Xander cry out - convulse - and he's coming, his hips pistoning helplessly into Spike's grip, one hand twisting the bedclothes, the other in Spike's hair, pressing him closer. Spike drinks, drinks - finally pulls away, little licks of his tongue on the wound and that's a shivery feeling too, shivery-good.

Xander just rests there for a moment, forehead on Spike's neck, lips on his collarbone, and Spike is stroking his back now, petting his hair and kissing the side of his throat - kissing his jaw. Xander gasps in a few hard breaths and then sits up slowly, smiling. Spike's eyes are half-closed, blue again. His hair is a mess but he looks.… Happy, Xander thinks. Content, at least. Xander strips off the condom and knots it - tosses it aside to retrieve later. He rubs his hands over Spike's chest - over the bruise-marks on Spike's hips, the scratches down his ribs. Leans down and kisses them, runs his tongue over every mark. Spike slips free of his body and Xander continues to kiss and touch, trying to get rid of the taint of Angel. Spike is practically purring, his hands working in the crumpled satin of the duvet, his eyes closed. Xander lays next to him - pulls him close and kisses him.

"That was so good, pet," Spike whispers, and Xander touches the bruised cheekbone - smiles when Spike opens his eyes.

"Yeah. Real good."

"Be alright, soon. Then -"

"Yeah." Xander runs his finger along the scar at Spike's eyebrow - reluctantly pushes himself up and out of the bed. Then, Spike will figure a way to get rid of Angel. Go to the Slayer, if he has to. Something - anything. Xander knows he'll do it, too. But he's afraid, so afraid…of what happens after that. He shakes his head, looking down at the vampire sprawled on the bed.

Now though, he'll do what he always does. He'll wash himself off of Spike, and he'll see him back to his chair, and then he'll go. Back to his room and back to school and back to being a Scooby. Back to the other world. The one where cat's eyes in the twilight are just that; stray cat running down the street, and not a demon with silken skin and clever hands and all the right words, all the right smiles.

Demon-magnet, that's him, and it never felt quite this good.


Cat's Cradle


Walking home after another Scooby meeting; a couple of hours listening to Buffy and Willow talk about classes, listening to Giles talk about monsters, listening to Anya talk about not being a demon anymore. Listening to himself saying not much at all. It's hard to talk, sometimes, when all he wants to do is talk about…him. But he can't, so he doesn't, and it makes him feel…angry, in a way, and it makes him feel sad. And feel lonely, even though Anya is willing to share her new human self with him. He just doesn't want it - doesn't want her. Wants his own demon, the one who…. Well, no point in thinking about it.

He hates that he can't get Spike out of his mind - out of his heart, it seems. Hates that a blond head in a crowd makes him catch his breath, hates that he dreams; blue eyes and cool fingers and sardonic, smiling mouth. Hates that he fell, and seems to keep falling, and nothing is stopping him and there just doesn't seem to be an end to how crummy he can feel. And how…stupid.

Xander kicks out at a rock - sends it skittering down the sidewalk. Stupid, to think that Spike would stick around, once he was well. Stupid to think he'd choose some mortal boy - clumsy and ignorant and so, so needy - over the love of his life; over 100 years of togetherness. Xander kicks at another rock - misses it and stomps on.

"I hate my life," he mutters.

"Really, pet?" That voice, out of the blue, and Xander feels his heart just stop. Stop, and sit in his chest for a moment like lead. And then start pounding again, fast, hard and painful, so painful. It hurts so much, in fact, that Xander feels tears prickle in his eyes and he closes them for a moment - looks up to find the source of that voice.

And he's there, on the wall that borders the cemetery. Cigarette in left hand, bottle in right. The same, the same, so much the same. Xander just stands there. Can't quite get anything to work - not his feet, not his mouth, nothing. So after a moment Spike hops easily down, flicking the cigarette away, taking a long pull on the bottle and sauntering over.

"Do you really hate it, pet? Or is it just that…teen angst thing they talk about on the telly?" Blue eyes and sardonic, smiling mouth, just like the dreams and Xander can't face this, can't do this. And finally he's moving; walking past Spike, a little shaky, and on down the sidewalk. Blinking, because his eyes are hot and itchy with tears. Blinking so Spike won't see.

"I really h-hate it, Spike," he says, and shivers when Spike falls into step beside him, coat swinging and just brushing his wrist.

"Why, Xander?" Softly, and Xander rounds on him, hands clenching into fists, his eyes swimming and his traitor voice cracking.

"Because it's fucked up, that's why! Because I - I let myself th-think that…I hate it." Hate you, he thinks, but he doesn't, not really and even this angry he won't say it. Won't.

"Think what?" Spike is looking at him, head a little to one side, that scarred eyebrow raised a little, and Xander hates that - hates that Spike seems to be confused, or…at a loss. And there's no way he can be, because Xander knows Spike felt like this. Knows he did, because he watchedhis side over Spike's side. Spike knows what this feels like, and Xander hates that he's pretending he doesn't get it.

"Oh fuck, Spike, just…just leave me alone, okay? Just - go get Dru and…and find some old lady to scare or something, okay? Just don't.…" Xander stops - closes his eyes for a second, and then shakes his head. What's the point? He turns and walks on, and Spike is still there, right there.

"Xander…Dru's not here."

"Well, duh. What, she's over at the mansion, having a vision or something? What'd you come back for, anyway?" Xander tries to walk a little faster, but Spike easily stays with him - takes another drink from the bottle he's carrying and offers it to Xander.

"Fuck no," Xander mutters, wincing at the thought. He just doesn't do alcohol, when he's pissed off. It's too much's just not a good idea.

"Listen - Xander. I need to talk to you."

"Well, talk then. I'm right here." A sigh from Spike, and then his hand is on Xander's arm, stopping him, and Xander tries to wrench free; is a little shocked when Spike yanks him hard enough to hurt him, pulling him around.

"I said, I wanna talk to you, pet. Sit down and talk."

A bit of a growl, there. Xander is staring into Spike's eyes and he sees something rather unexpected. Firstly, that Spike is drunk - very drunk, even though he doesn't sound like he is. And second, that those blue, blue eyes - those eyes that have held so much laughter and pleasure and wicked lust and sly amusement - are wounded. Are almost black with pain. Xander just stares at him and Spike takes another drink - drains the bottle and tosses it away. His hand is still locked down on Xander's bicep and now his other hand comes up, and delicately traces Xander's cheek and jaw - touches his lower lip.

"I hafta…tell you some things."

They just stand there for a minute, and Xander sighs, finally, and shakes his head. "Fine. Come on, then."

Spike blinks at him - nods back, and his hand finally eases up, sliding off Xander's arm. They start walking again, not speaking, Spike smoking another cigarette and Xander kicking at rocks, head down. They get to Xander's house and he leads the vampire around the side, to the basement entrance.

"This your house, Xander?" Spike looks a little confused - like he's forgotten where Xander lives, and Xander shrugs.

"I'm down in the basement now - kinda like an apartment, only…not."

"But, they'll hear us, come looking…." The alcohol must be kicking in hard, Xander thinks, because Spike is looking really confused now - a little unsteady.

"Nah. They've been ignoring me for twelve years or more. I'm even easier to ignore down here. Doubt they'll even notice." Xander pulls his keys out of his pocket - opens the door and steps inside. Turns and looks back at Spike, who's standing there, looking lost.

I'm out of my mind. Fuck it. "Come in, Spike," he says, and Spike's mouth twists up in a tiny little smile and then he steps inside. Xander leads him down the short flight of steps and into the basement proper. He glances around and sighs. It's mostly clean - the space is too small to allow for clutter - and the couch and ancient recliner aren't any more decrepit then your average college student furniture. But the basement is dark and a bit musty, and the palpable sense of…loneliness hangs over it all like a fog. No pictures - no cheerful touches. Just…the basics. Survival.

Welcome to my life. "Wanna beer?" Xander strips off his jacket - crosses to the miniscule kitchenette and opens his fridge. He's got a six-pack in there that he stole from his last job - an 'I just got fired so fuck you' five-finger discount that he can't force himself to feel bad about. He just looks at them though, and Spike says nothing so he closes the fridge again and goes to slump on the couch. Spike is standing in the middle of the room, looking around him with the air of someone who was expecting the Ritz and got…a damp basement hole.

"Nice digs, pet."

"Yeah, well.…" Xander just shrugs and Spike finally moves. He takes off his coat and slings it into the recliner, and sprawls down on the couch next to Xander; leans his head back, staring at the ceiling.
"Thing is.…" Spike says, and his hands are doing this slow-motion wander over his body. "Thing is.…"

Xander just watches him - wonders what in hell he's doing until he finally realizes Spike is looking for his cigarettes. Which are in his coat. Xander sighs and gets up - grabs the coat and searches it - finds the cigarettes.

"Here, Spike," he says, and tosses them into Spike's lap. The vampire picks them up, looking faintly puzzled.

"Ta, pet," he says, and pulls one out - slides his Zippo from his jeans-pocket and lights it and then sits there, smoking. Xander just stares at him - finally leans back and closes his eyes. His brain is nicely blank. Just - blank. No thoughts, no feelings - nothing at all. It's a first. He sinks into the nothing - the silence - and it takes him a moment to realize Spike is touching him. Cool fingers gentle on his jaw - his collarbone - his shoulder. Tangling in his hair, stroking down his arm and rubbing over his knuckles. Back to his shoulder again, then on to skate lightly over his chest and belly. Fingers on his lips now, and Xander isn't in nothing anymore, he's in the middle of a molten criss-cross of touches. Everywhere Spike's fingers have touched fire has sprung up, and Xander imagines a spider's web of lines over his body - a net of fire that flickers and dances and follows the black-nailed hand that ignites it.

"Cat's cradle," Spike murmurs, lips brushing the upper curve of his ear, nose just touching in his hair, and Xander takes in a hard, harsh breath.


"Cat's cradle. You know? With string and hands.…" Lips on his temple, now - on his cheekbone, and Xander wonders fleetingly if Spike managed to put the cigarette out.

"I know what it is…what does it - oh." Lips on his lips now, nibbling at the edges - tongue just lapping a bit at the corner of his mouth - at the wet underside of his upper lip. Spike is so close now, so close - cool length of his body all along Xander's left side, one hand spread in the center of his chest so that it's like a coal of fire there - dense and burning.

"Spike -"

"Missed you, pet. Missed you…." and Xander is ready to just sink into that, into knowing that, but he doesn't. He opens his eyes and Spike's are staring into his.

God, they're like some kind of jewel, some kind of star…. He puts his hand flat on Spike's chest and pushes him away. "You can't do that, Spike. You can't go away for a year, Spike, for a fucking year and come back and just -"

Spike has leaned away from him a bit now, head to one side and Xander wants to punch him or - something. Just wants him to stop looking at him like that, as if Xander is being silly, being…dramatic.

"Xander -"

"Don't, Spike! I might be - might be just a human, might be just a, a kid, but you can't do that, you can't make me feel like - and just go and then come back here and - " Xander leans forward and puts his elbows on his knees, his face down into his hands and searches for that nothing place again; twitches violently when Spike's hand slowly traces his spine.

"Come back here and what, pet?"

"Come back here and look at me like that, like -"

"Like what?" Spike's voice sounds genuinely puzzled and Xander squeezes the sides of his head - drags his hands back through his hair and pulls a little. He turns and glares at the vampire.

"Like you don't get it, Spike. Like you can't imagine why I'm not - not throwing myself at you and just - taking up where we left off! You can't do that to me, I don't care if you're the fuckin' Slayer of Slayers and William the Bloody, you don't have any fuckin' right -!"

Spike stares at him - leans slowly back and picks up his cigarette from where it's smoldering on the edge of the coffee table. Takes a long drag and stubs it out on his boot-heel. "I don't - I'm not looking at you, Xander. I'm - bloody hell, pet! I'm tryin' ta - " Spike is up off the couch like a cat, pacing to the stairs and back, scowling. "I told you I wanted to talk to you. I need to - just listen, Xander!"

Xander puts his head back down, hoping for the nothing instead of the fire; the fire that still burns across his skin and the fire that makes him want to jump up and grab Spike - kiss him and touch him and try to quench the heat that is burning through him against the vampire's cool, cool body. Banked embers, coming to life after a year of sullen smoldering, and it's almost too much.

"When I left - me and Dru, we went down to Argentina, pet. She wanted to go where it was warm - wanted to see the mountains there. We lived in Buenos Aires - got a little villa there, just outside the city…."

"I know this, Spike, I know this." Xander whispers and Spike touches his head fleetingly as he paces by. Xander jerks away and then stands up, and goes over to his dresser.

"When we left here - it was months before she stopped talking about the bloody Angelus. She was so mad at me for takin' her away…." Xander opens the bottom drawer of his dresser, where he keeps his yearbooks and some pictures - mementoes. He takes out a plain white envelope and holds it in his hands.

"I tried to - to make her happy. Gave her everything. But she was so…. She was so angry at me, and so.… She saw us, you know?"

Xander turns at that, looking at Spike. "What do you mean?"

"At the factory one time, early on. She saw you there - saw you help me, saw you…."

"Oh." Xander goes back to the couch and sits heavily, the envelope in his hands. He turns it over and over - finally opens it and takes out what's inside.

"What's that?" Spike asks, and he sits down next to Xander, knee pressing lightly into Xander's thigh, shoulder just touching, and Xander just wants to lean into him; just sigh and close his eyes and give up, give in. But he doesn't. Instead he unfolds the papers from the envelope. Three flimsy sheets of air-mail stationery, the kind that you fold into an envelope. The blue and red 'Airmail' logo is poorly realized - the lettering on the pages blurry, as if the ink has soaked out a bit. The creases are soft - the edges worn. Xander has handled these a lot.

"I know where you were, Spike. You sent me these, remember? See?" Xander angles the top page toward the vampire - the first letter, the one he got two months after Spike and Dru had gone. The postmark is from Mazatlan. There's no salutation - no signature, just a jagged sketch of a spike with what might be real blood smeared on it.

"You told me about how you walked up the hill and stood next to this lighthouse - El Faro. How you looked up the coast. Here, listen -" Xander squints at the letter - at Spike's upright and rather shaky hand. "'The lights go all the way to the horizon, jewelry-strands of white and blue and the sea is streaked with phosphor. The air is warm and heavy and salt, and I can almost taste you on my tongue….' That's Mazatlan, Spike. And this one - " Xander folds the first, his touch delicate - almost reverent despite the crack in his voice, the bitterness.

"Someplace called…Quito. In Ecuador." Xander's hands are shaking a little and he smoothes the faintly bluish paper. "'It's raining. I'm sitting across the street from La Compania de Jesus and I can hear the rain striking on a bell in the tower. Just a faint sort of thrumming and it's like hearing your heartbeat, like lying with you and just being lulled by the sound of your living….' There. Ecuador. And this one, this one.…" Xander pushes the heel of his hand into his eye for a moment, trying to push back the welling of tears. Won't do that. Not now. Not…with him here.

"Buenos Aires. 'Puerto Madero. The docks. In some ways, in some places - it's a little bit like home - London, I mean. But London hasn't been home for a hundred years, and this isn't home, and Dru…isn't home anymore. Just one far-away boy, warm as the sun, home in the flicker-light of hell….'"

Xander runs his fingers gently over the words - seems to remember suddenly that Spike is there, and folds the letters and tucks them away. "How could you - send me those, Spike, how could you walk away and send me those and.… They just - they just shredded me, Spike! You walk away and you send me these like you just expect me to…to take it, and when you get back to pretend you were never gone and I can't do that, Spike, I just can't." Xander realizes he's crushing the envelope and he hastily smoothes it - looks up when Spike's hands reach and gently cover his. Spike's look is - bewildered. Lost.

"I didn't want you to forget me, love. Didn't want you to…think you didn't mean anything. Listen. Down there - Dru just kept…coming back to it. Coming back to you. Said - you were all around me - all over me. Said I whispered your name in my head all night, said…I looked at her and saw you, dark hair and dark eyes and.… She was right, Xander, she was. But I - I just.…"

Spike leapt up, pacing again, running a hand back through his hair and the demon flickering out and back, snarl of fangs and cat's eye gleam for a moment and Xander feels that old surge, that sudden twisting drop in his belly - that sharp gasp for air he can't help.

Oh fuck, it's the same, the same, I can't see him except I want him and…. Xander closes his eyes again, forehead to bunched hands, the envelope cool on his skin.

"How is this supposed to work? How are we supposed to - to trust each other? You're friends with the Slayer, Xander - you kill my kind. And I kill your kind, why are we.…" The footsteps stopped, and Xander felt Spike's fingers in his hair - stroking it back, rubbing the longer, loose curls that fell around the nape of his neck.

"She said it was like cat's cradle, love. A mess of cross-purposes and knots and tangles, getting you all confused, making you lose your place. But then, you just tug here and move your hand like so and it falls right into place - makes Candles, or Cup and Saucer. Makes something…clever and special and…new. Something - different. She said - I just had to do it right, and we'd stop being in knots." The caressing fingers move down - rub at the tense muscles of Xander's neck, and then Spike is crouching down in front of him, hands on Xander's wrists, pulling his hands down and looking up at him - looking at him, eyes wide and hopeful - fearful.

"I don't want to be in knots. She knew she lost, pet. She fought me, she tried to keep me, and I tried to stay…she gave me a hundred years, love - she gave me so much. But in the end - she wanted him more than me - wanted…something I couldn't give her. She hated me for it, and I just…wanted to be away."

Xander just watches him - watches the emotions rush across the lean, expressive face. Anger, sadness, hurt. And - hope. Love. "She was right, Spike. I am tangled up - all knotted up in my head." Xander leaned just far enough to rest his forehead on Spike's. Leaned there and closed his eyes. "You're all over me - you're all through me, and I can't.…" Xander stopped again - tossed the envelope aside and put his hands on Spike's shoulders. Ran his fingers lightly up the back of Spike's neck.

"I can't go to sleep without dreaming about you. I can't think, half the time, because I'm thinking about you. I can't talk, because all I want to say is Spike, but I can't tell anyone."

"Tell me," Spike breathes. "Tell me, pet.…" And then his mouth is on Xander's and they're kissing, only it's more like drowning, like dying, because Xander can't see, can't move, can't breathe. He just feels the thin and deceptively strong hands curling around his back. Just tastes the smoke and blood and caramel that is the demon, the man, Spike. He shudders - clutches him closer and presses his mouth harder, wanting more, wanting.

Spike pulls away, his lips going to Xander's jaw and throat, his hands working under Xander's t-shirt, tracing spine and shoulder blades. "Tell me, tell me, love," he whispers, and Xander feels himself sliding down, off the couch, kneeling between Spike's tensed thighs, pulling him close, belly to belly.

"Dreamed about you - dreamed about your hands, on me, about your mouth, on me. Dreamed that you…oh…that you wanted me and…nobody else, nobody else." Spike is pulling at his shirt - pulling it off, and then his hands and his nails are running over Xander's body - gentle and then rough, stinging scratches and soothing caresses. Xander leans back, eyes closed, and his mouth opens on a soundless gasp when Spike's mouth finds first one nipple, then the other. Scrape of tooth and rasping tongue, Spike's fingers urgent and fumbling with the button of Xander's jeans.

"I dreamed about you too, pet. Dreamed about you on your back for me, open to me, begging me. Dreamed about this, this skin, this heat, this.…" Spike's voice rumbles into a wordless hum of pleasure as he kisses his way from collarbone to navel, and Xander slides his hands through the moon-struck hair and pulls him up. Looks at him, his eyes wide and dark, full of a desperate hope.

"Why are you back, Spike? Are you gonna stay? Do you -?"

"Back for you, love, back for you. Want to be here, be in you, be…all, everything… Let me back in, love. Let me… Won't hurt you again, promise you, won't do that." Sincerity in that voice - truth, in that voice. He thinks so. Wants it to be so, so very badly. Feels the pressure of sharp hip-bone and hard thigh and willing flesh, wanting him, and he sighs and lets go - lets it all go.

Sold my soul to this devil the first time I kissed him - the first time he touched me. Let him have it, then, if this is what I get in return. So tired of wanting and not having….

Xander pulls Spike to him and kisses him - puts all and everything into that kiss; loneliness and bitterness and love and need, and Spike's arms are wrapping around him, holding him so close he can barely breathe. Xander runs his fingers over Spike's back, finds the edges of his shirt and gets under it, yanks at the t-shirt under that and pulls both of them up, desperate for the cool flesh to be against his own. Spike leans back, helps Xander get the shirts over his head, and then he pulls at Xander's sneakers and socks - tosses them aside. He grabs Xander's hips and lifts - gets him back up on the couch and is undoing button and zipper, stripping Xander's jeans and underwear off and sending them flying.

Then his hands, his mouth - moving over Xander; touching and tasting every inch of skin. Scrape of tooth or nail, then soothing tongue, and Xander just leans back and lets him. Sighs and gasps and writhes under the sensations. His hips come up off the couch when Spike's mouth takes in the head of his cock. Spike sucks there, licks, moves lower, takes him in deeper, and Xander moans aloud, his hands digging into the edge of the cushions, his breath coming in gasps, now. The cool wetness is exquisite around the burning flesh of his erection and he tries to push up, to get more. Spike backs off, lets him go, and Xander hears his voice whispering - wanting.

"Spike, Spike - feels so good…do that again, please do that again -"

"Do something better, love," Spike whispers, and his mouth moves down, licking, until he is at Xander's balls and he takes one and then the other into his mouth; suction and prickle of teeth, pressure that is sharp-edged delight, and Xander whimpers, twisting under the vampire, thrusting up, panting. Then Spike shifts - puts his arms under Xander's thighs, and then his shoulders, and his mouth is sliding wetly lower, to lick with cat-licks at the sensitive flesh there; to suddenly stab in, and Xander cries out. Spike just does it again - again - until Xander is trembling, on the edge of orgasm. Spike moves again, up again, mouth taking Xander's cock in and sucking and a cool finger is pressing in where his tongue just was, twisting, and Xander can't hold back, can't stop it, and he arches up into Spike's mouth and comes, crying out, feeling Spike's teeth on him, feeling the nails of Spike's hand clawing at his ribs. He relaxes slowly, panting, and watches as Spike slowly draws away - looks up with demon-gold eyes and swollen lips, a hungry look on his face.

"Sweet, just like I remember. Get up, love - on your knees." Spike glides up, lightning tattoo of nibbling kisses up Xander's ribs and chest to his throat. Xander gasps, and then Spike is stepping away, kicking his boots off, shedding his jeans in one swift movement. He rummages in his coat, pulling out something, and Xander pushes himself over - gets up on shaky legs and kneels on the couch, elbows on the back, head down. Waiting - wanting. Knowing what comes next. There is crackling and soft cursing from behind him.

"Bloody safety packaging," Spike mutters, and Xander can't help it, he has to laugh, and Spike presses up close behind him, cock slipping between Xander's legs and cool belly pressed to his buttocks.

"Not so funny when you can't get the sodding stuff off," Spike says, his hand slipping down. Xander feels Spike's cock pushing at him, cool and insistent and wonderfully slick, and he takes a hard breath in and pushes back. The tip of it slips in, and Xander stiffens - shivers.

"God, Spike…it's been so long.…" Spike's hands, which have been rubbing up and down Xander's back, stop.

"You didn't have anybody while I was gone, pet?"

"Fuck no. Spike." Xander tries to push back further and Spike moves with him, moving away. The vampire bends over, arms around Xander's ribs, lips at the nape of his neck.

"You really…not anybody?" His voice is so soft - utterly amazed.

"Really. Only want you, Spike - only wanted you this whole time. Fuck, please - "

Spike lingeringly kisses his neck and shoulder - moves slowly forward, inch by inch, making it last, making Xander moan. Spike finds that place, deep inside, and pushes against it, and Xander jerks, hardening again, something like a cascade of sparks fountaining up his spine, down his thighs. Spike's hands are on his hips, holding him so still, and Xander fights him - tries to move - but Spike controls him effortlessly.

"That the place, Xander? That feel good? Right there?" He moves: back an inch, forward an inch, hitting the spot again, again, and Xander's legs are trembling now, his belly heaving with his panting breaths. Every time Spike moves it's fire and needles and a giddy rush of blood, pounding through him, and his voice is getting hoarse, now, his hands aching from clutching the back of the couch. Spike can do this for hours - has, before - but Xander needs something else this time - tonight. Needs something more.

"Spike," he whispers, twisting to look over his shoulder, to look at the vampire who is arched over him, eyes wide and golden, mouth a little bloody where he's bitten his own lip. "Kiss me, Spike - wanna taste it." Spike blinks - moves again, roll of his hips, and Xander arches and groans aloud. "Please Spike, wanna taste you ."

Spike leans forward - cool belly and chest against Xander's back, like ice on skin that is almost glowing with heat. Xander cranes his neck, takes Spike's lip into his mouth and sucks, pulling the tiny punctures open, tasting the salt-savory blood that wells there. He bites - kisses harder, and Spike's hands dig into his hips, crescent-shaped cuts from his nails and that's just more fuel to the fire. Spike starts to thrust in earnest, building speed and force, and Xander puts his head down onto the couch-back - rolls it to the side, baring his throat, letting his knees slip a little wider, letting Spike in a little deeper.

"Dreamed this, love - oh fuck you're beautiful, you're so lovely around me, so hot…" Spike is hurting him now, just a little, almost enough, and Xander arches his back - thrusts back into him. After so long, so very long, he finally feels right - feels whole. The cool weight of the vampire on him, the solid, perfect length of him, filling and pushing and making him shiver, making him shout; this is what he's wanted, what he's missed. Spike's body pounding against his, demonic strength that holds and moves and makes him; keeps him safe even when he can't think, can't see, can't breathe.

"Spike, want you - please, please, please, do it, please Spike, now…." He doesn't even know if he's coherent - he can't even hear himself, just knows what he wants from the vampire - what he must have, the final thing, and Spike knows, as well, and his hips are like a machine, oiled and implacable and brutal, and his mouth is on Xander's throat - is open and wet against him. Xander arches into that touch, wails in purest ecstasy as Spike's fangs slash into him and sink deep. It's white-out, then, and every muscle in Xander's body is locked, ridged, and Spike's hand on his cock is almost too much and he comes again - feels Spike inside him, doing the same, wash of coolness in the furnace of his body.

The fangs are a point of a deep, pleasurable ache that spreads to his whole body and Spike's arm is crushing Xander to him as he drinks and drinks and finally pulls away, gasping hoarsely into Xander's neck as the last tremors of orgasm ripple through him. They both begin to come back - come down - and Xander's legs give way and Spike goes with him, twisting so that they fall onto the couch. Spike pulls Xander up tight against him, chin on his shoulder and arms around heaving belly, cock still held inside. His back is against the corner of the couch back and arm, holding them both up. Xander just slumps boneless against him, breathing in great gulps of air, letting his head fall back onto Spike's shoulder and turning it just enough so that he can kiss the long arch of the vampire's throat.

After long minutes they're calm, Xander's breathing back to normal. He shivers just a little as the sweat begins to evaporate off him. Spike licks at his neck where the bite is, sending a flutter of arousal through Xander's stomach and groin.

"Oh man, fuck, that was.… That was what I've wanted…for so long," Xander whispers, and Spike kisses the hinge of his jaw - his cheek.

"Perfect, love, just like I remembered." Spike reaches out to the cigarettes he left on the coffee table and snags one - looks around for his Zippo.

"In your jeans," Xander says, smiling, and Spike groans.

"Too far away. I got matches in my coat.…" He stretches - moves in Xander and Xander shudders at the push of hardening flesh inside him.

Oh fuck, I forgot about that, forgot he could… I can't even move.

Spike catches the edge of his coat and pulls it towards him, and rummages for matches. He pulls them out and they're tangled with something - some sort of cord that starts to fall to the floor and Xander catches it. It's hair, dark, and blond, and brown, all braided together in a long, long loop. It's slightly creepy and Xander holds it gingerly, wondering what the hell it is. Spike strikes a match - lights the cigarette and inhales - reaches for the thing and holds it up.

"Dru's cat's cradle. She made me take it. Her hair and mine, and yours. Said it was like…a scrying glass, to have all of us together, wound up like that." Spike balances the cigarette on the edge of the coffee table, ember jutting out over the ratty carpet, and loops the cord around his hands - between his fingers and around, making two long x's.

"You know what to do next, love?" Spike whispers, and his hips are moving just a little, just enough to make Xander feel it, and Xander nods his head.

"Yeah, I know." He grasps the center of the x's in thumb and forefinger - turns his hands out and brings them down and around and up again, making the next figure. Then Spike does the same, another figure, and then Xander again, and Spike bends to the bite mark, teeth worrying over it. Xander just sighs, thighs tense as he moves against Spike.

"Jacob's Ladder," Spike murmurs, holding the last pattern. "Ladder to heaven…I'll never climb it…heaven is here.…" The pattern dissolves as Spike slips the cord free, tossing it down, and his hands rub over Xander's body, over chest and shoulders, belly and hips and thighs, touching every part, re-claiming every part. "Mine, my own," he says, and Xander looks up at him, into layers of blue on blue, and he has to agree - heaven is here.



Cat and Mouse


"Goin' somewhere, boy?" The low, silken voice hissed out of the darkness, and Xander froze, his heart skipping and then speeding up painfully.

Oh fuck! He stumbled just a little but kept walking - sped up slightly, trying to breathe in deep breaths and not pant.

"What, you think you can run?" The voice was closer - more silken, if that were possible, and Xander risked a quick glimpse behind him. Nothing. He walked faster still - almost a trot. "I'm gonna caaaatch you," the voice sing-songed, on the edge of laughter. "And when I do catch you…. Mmmm…gonna eat…you…up!" The vampire leapt out at him, fangs and golden eyes, wicked grin. Xander sucked in a hard, startled breath - stifled the cry that rose to his lips. In one motion he turned and ran. Laughter chased him, echoing.

Damn - cemetery - not a good place to run. Xander pounded along, his sneakers slipping on dead leaves as he wove his way among crypts and tombs. He vaulted over a leaning headstone, dodged a tree and almost ran full-tilt into the cemetery wall. It loomed eight feet or more - impossible to climb. Xander cast a frantic glance backwards, gasping for breath, then darted to the left in the hopes of finding a way out. He was brought up short by another crypt, this one nearly spot-lit by the full moon. The vampire was there, leaning casually against the cracked, stained granite. He had a cigarette in his fingers and he raised it casually to his mouth; took a long drag, watching his prey.

"Told you - you can't outrun me, boy." Xander sucked in a hard breath - two - then suddenly wheeled, determined to run again - find a way out - not give up. But the leather-clad arm around his throat brought him up short and he let out a strangled cry. The vampire held him easily, one arm around his throat, just pressing enough, one around his ribs, squeezing just a little. Xander struggled, kicking backwards, but his sneakers connected only with the air and he was rapidly tiring, his oxygen cut off and a roaring in his ears.

"Now, now - no passing out. Wanna be sure you feel all of this.…" That voice again; soft, amused - deadly. Xander hung limp, and the vampire spun and shoved, pushing him several steps forward into the crypt wall. Xander connected with the granite with a sharp smack of flesh and flinched, his palms stinging. He just leaned there for a minute, panting, and the roaring finally subsided. He caught his breath and turned around slowly, hands pressed against the wall, his knees trembling. The vampire looked at him in sly amusement - took a last, long drag on his cigarette and tossed the butt aside.

"You wanna live to see the sun come up, boy?"

Xander stared - finally nodded, feeling a new wave of weakness sweep over him. What does he want…what -?*

The vampire walked a step to the right…another - turned and walked the other way, coming a bit closer, hands behind his back and head down, as if he were deep in thought. The moonlight sparked silvery glints from his pale hair, and his skin seemed almost to glow.

Beautiful, he's…fuck…. Xander glanced around wildly, hoping to see an escape route, and suddenly the vampire was just there, right in his face, cold hand at his throat, the other beside his head, lean thigh between Xander's and glint of white, white fangs.

"You're not goin' anywhere." The vampire stroked his fingers through Xander's sweat-damp hair - took a deep breath, eyes fluttering closed for a moment. "Oh, you smell goood, so good. Sweat and blood and terror… mmmm…." The vampire's lips were inches from Xander's throat - then touching, and Xander whimpered as he felt them press into his jugular - felt the wetness as the vampire licked him, sighing.

"That's so good.…" Abruptly, the demon pulled away, and Xander gasped a little in startlement. "So, you wanna live. You gotta do somethin' for me. Gimmie a reason to let you walk out of here. What do you think that should be, eh? Got any ideas?" The vampire grinned at him, and his thigh ground up into Xander's crotch - his whole body undulated for a moment, pressing against Xander and rubbing, like a cat.

"I - I d-don't -"

"Shhhh, pet. I think I know what you can give me, eh? I think we both know." The vampire leaned over Xander, both hands on the crypt wall, his face inches away again. The eyes were half-lidded, speculative, and suddenly the demon was gone, and the human face was there, smirking. "This'll make it better, eh pretty?" The vampire pushed away - shrugged casually out of the black leather coat he wore and tossed it over a headstone.

"Now, first things first. I like a bit a skin, so - strip." Xander froze, staring at the demon, and the demon grinned back, hands loose at his sides, head cocked just a little to one side. "Don't make me tell you again, boy. You don't wanna make me angry."

"I won't like you when you're angry?" Xander blurted, and mentally slapped himself. TV had a lot to answer for. Damn brainwashing box! Just shut up now!

The vampire raised an eyebrow in surprise - laughed aloud. "No, you really won't. Clothes - off. Now."

Xander glanced around one more time, knowing full well they were completely alone, but hoping.… He took a deep breath and reached for his shirt front - undid the buttons slowly and shed the brightly printed cloth to one side. Then he pulled up the hem of his t-shirt and lifted it over his head. It, too, was tossed aside. His hands touched the fly of his jeans, trembling, then he lifted one foot and clumsily took of sneaker and sock. Changed feet and took off the others, his legs shaking under him. The grass was cool and a little damp under his feet - the granite wall cold and rough against his shoulder-blades. He bit his lip, hesitating, then undid his jeans and pushed them and his underwear off in one swift movement, tossing them after the shirts. Then he stood defiantly, his hands instinctively cupping his genitals, shivering. Trying to ignore the half-hard flesh under his hands. The vampire was staring at him, a wolfish expression on his face, and he let his gaze travel slowly down and then back up Xander's body - a look Xander could almost feel.

"Nice. You shouldn't wear your clothes so loose, pretty boy - you got nothin' to hide. " The vampire stepped closer, and one long-fingered hand lifted and settled lightly on Xander's chest. Xander shuddered as the cold, soft flesh slowly caressed him - brushed with teasing lightness over one nipple, then the other. Xander shut his eyes, feeling the granite dig into his back and buttocks as he swayed away from the touch.

"Nowhere to go." The voice, so soft, right in his ear. And the lips again, pulling his earlobe into the cool dampness of the mouth - tiny scrape of teeth and then soft, wet tongue, trailing over his jaw, down his throat. The hand on his chest pressed harder, holding him still, and Xander realized he had been twisting away, just a little.

"Don't move, just.…" The other hand came up to rest on his hip, heavy and solid, pinning him there. Nails scraped over his collarbones, pectoral; pinched at his nipples and Xander gasped sharply. His eyes flew open in shock and he found dark eyes staring back at him, pale skin and pale hair back-lit by the moon, shadows blade-sharp over high cheekbones and lean jaw. The vampire's knee bumped his own - pushed at his leg and Xander moved his foot over the grass, sliding his legs apart. The denim was old and soft against his thigh - the leg inside it was hard.

"Put your hands on me. Put your hands on my hips.…" the vampire whispered, and Xander did, feeling the solid swathe of muscle there, the stiff edge of a belt, the soft silk of the red overshirt.

"Mmmm.…" The vampire moved close again, thigh and groin pushing against Xander, a ridge of hard flesh digging into the crease between thigh and hip. Xander was panting again, trying not to, his fingers clamped down painfully tight on the wings of denim-clad bone under them. The vampire ran his hands up Xander's arms to his shoulders - pushed his fingers into the hair behind Xander's ears and tilted his face up a little, thumbs pressing into Xander's jaw.

"Open up, pet, let me.…" Lips on his, nibbling, tip of cool tongue, and Xander sucked in a hard breath - felt the vampire's tongue pushing in, past lips and teeth. Running over the roof of his mouth, under his own tongue, teasing along the edges of his teeth. Xander felt the thumbs, pressing a little harder, and he opened his mouth wider - let his own tongue push forward, tasting smoke and blood and…something. The demon, honey-sweet. He heard the soft moan that vibrated in his throat and the vampire pulled slightly away, his lips just feathering over Xander's.

"You like that, pretty? What else do you like.…?" The vampire began to lick, to kiss, to nip. Jaw and throat, shoulders and collarbones. Swipe of tongue the length of his sternum and then cool wetness on one nipple and the other. Hands on his buttocks, kneading. Xander writhed, grinding his head back into the crypt behind him, panting now. His hands slipping off the silk shirt and tightening into fists - opening, and he pressed his palms against the granite, moaning again as the delicious touches slid down, down. Suction on one hip-bone, then teeth, scraping, and Xander's hips pushed up, instinctive. The vampire pressed his thumbs into the hollows of Xander's hips - pushed him back hard into the crypt.

"Stay still," he murmured, and his mouth continued its leisurely journey, nipping and sucking. Xander let out a tiny cry when the cool flesh wrapped around his balls - drew them in and sucked them, one after the other; then the flickering tongue-tip burrowing under them, just teasing the sensitive flesh there. Then the mouth was moving, licking up the straining flesh of his erection and Xander gasped harshly. He was being engulfed, sucked down, and he lost it, moaning loudly. His hands came up and twisted into the platinum hair, urging closer and more and with a snarl the vampire was upright, Xander's wrists in a crushing grip, demons' face inches away.

"Ssspike….p-please -"

"You know better then that." Human again, Spike kissed Xander hard, drawing blood as he crushed vulnerable lips to teeth. Xander bucked up against him, struggling to free his hands. Spike abruptly let go.

"Take my belt off, pretty, take it off -" Spike whispered, and Xander did, fumbling, his hands a little numb. He stripped it out of the belt loops, the shush of the leather loud in his ears. Spike snatched it away from him; grabbed Xander's wrists and quickly bound them with the belt, snugging it tight.

"Knees, pet," Spike whispered, and Xander slid himself slowly down the vampire's body, panting. Spike kept the end of the belt in his hand, pulling Xander's wrists up over his head. With his other hand he reached up and with a few quick jerks stripped the silk shirt and t-shirt from his body, tossing the rags away. Then he undid the buttons of his jeans, and pushed them down over lean thighs, freeing his own erection. It quivered there between them, gleaming wetly along the crown, and Xander felt a jolt of arousal go through him. He ached to touch himself - touch Spike. He glanced up into golden eyes and shuddered all over.

"Come on then, your turn." Xander swayed forward, mouth opening, and took a long taste of the cool satin flesh of the vampires' cock. He licked again and again, tasting salt and sweet -the vampire's own flavor - and the metallic, citrus flavor of the pre-come that welled from the tip. He ducked his head to lick and mouth the insides of Spike's thighs - the crease at the hip and the jumping, tensing muscles all across his abdomen. The belt creaked as Spike's hand twisted it, gripping it tight, and he braced his other hand on the crypt wall, leaning forward. Xander's hands clawed uselessly at the air, and he felt a stick dig in under one knee. He opened his mouth and took in the head of Spike's cock - moved slowly, sucking and licking, taking more every minute, getting as much as he could. Spike hissed, his hips undulating.

"Yesss…like that. You're so good at this, pet. Look so pretty, on your knees for me. Harder, boy, come on…." Xander complied, sucking hard, moving his head a little faster, letting his teeth scrape and prickle over the sensitive flesh, and Spike groaned deep in his throat. Xander swallowed, the delicious taste of pre-come and demon in the back of his throat and suddenly Spike was hauling him up, kissing him so hard their teeth clicked sharply together and Xander's lip split again. Spike sucked on the blood - tore himself away and dug one hand into his jeans, the other still trapping Xander's behind his head.

"You ready to be fucked, pet? 'Cause I'm gonna.…" Spike pulled a squashed tube out of his pocket - thumbed open the lid and squeezed a dollop onto his cock. He tossed the tube aside and smeared the lube over himself - reached between Xander's legs and roughly pressed one finger, then two, up inside, twisting them. Xander bucked against them, whimpering, and Spike let go of the belt - grabbed Xander around the waist and just lifted him, pushing his back against the crypt. Xander locked his ankles in the small of Spike's back, put his bound hands around the vampire's neck and dove in for more kisses, drawing blood himself, ferocious in his need.

"Fuck, open up now, just.…" Spike was panting now, legs spread wide, and Xander felt Spike's hand slipping between them, holding himself steady. Then the cool pressure that quickly became warm, then hot, then a burn, as Spike pushed the head of his cock inside. He paused, his fingers rubbing the ring of muscle there, his lips on Xander's throat, fangs just prickling like kitten's claws.

"You want more, pretty, want me to…?" He whispered, and Xander tried to push down, shivering all over, his body grasping for more.

"Yeah, more, Spike, I wanna, just do it, fuck, please -" Xander babbled, and Spike pushed, up with his hips and down on Xander's waist. As his cock pushed in, stretching Xander hard and fast his fangs sank in as well, not kitten claws now but a tiger's razoring talons and Xander nearly screamed. He felt his body fluttering and grasping around the invading length - felt the sting of it and the deeper, throbbing ache in his throat where Spike held him, delicate and deadly. Xander tried to move, to thrust, to take more, and Spike's hands lifted him - slammed him back down, taking one long pull at the wound in his throat and then pulling away, concentrating on getting deeper into him.

Xander arched back, his hands at the back of Spike's neck, the belt cutting into his wrists, the crypt wall cold on the back of his head, pulling his hair a little. He pushed - flexed his legs, doing whatever he could do, and Spike began to pound in earnest, his hands cruelly tight on Xander's hips, nails digging in. Suddenly he spun around, going to his knees, ducking out of the loop of flesh and leather and Xander felt the cold grass on his back and lifted his legs, slinging them over Spike's shoulders and letting his hands fall to the ground, the tail of the belt gripped in his fingers. Spike pushed deep, now, deep and hard and Xander cried out every time the engorged head of Spike's cock thrust into that spot.

"Sspike, oh fuck, that's…please, please…Spike…." Xander arched his back up hard - lifted his chin, baring his throat, and the demon was there, growling. Xander opened his eyes wide, watching, and Spike lunged, slamming deep, and his fangs sank deep as well, points of white-hot ecstasy and Xander screamed, his body a rigid bow under the furiously working arch of demonic flesh and bone. Spike's hips thrust once - twice more - then he, too, was locked into the climax, and he tore away from Xander's neck and roared his pleasure into the night.

After long moments Xander went limp under him, gasping for breath, and Spike bent his back like a cat's and licked Xander's chest and ribs, tonguing up the spatterings of semen that glistened faintly in the moonlight. He thrust in and out, gently, a few more times, then withdrew, and Xander's legs slid bonelessly off his shoulders and thumped to the ground. Spike continued his leisurely clean-up and Xander whimpered, twisting under him.

"Spike, fuck…gimmie half a minute.…" Spike laughed and crawled up Xander's body - took his mouth in a gentle kiss.

"That was fun, pet. I like you all helpless and running. Makes you taste so good…." Swipe of tongue over the beaded blood on Xander's throat and he shivered, draping his still-bound wrists over Spike's neck.

"You make a good villain. Make me wanna turn evil."

"Mmmm…." Spike settled more comfortably, groin to groin with Xander, elbows propped in the grass. Xander tangled his feet with the vampires, still too limp to bring his legs up.

"It's still early…wanna play kidnapped?" Spike grinned brightly down at the boy and Xander giggled.

"Only if the kidnapper has a nice bed. There's a rock back here somewhere." Xander wriggled around and Spike kissed him again - stopped for a moment, head cocked, listening.

"I know where there's a nice bed with nice chains…all the comforts. I'll get you all hidden away underground, won't have to worry 'bout those damn soldiers." He listened again, eyes flashing gold, then suddenly he was up, pulling Xander with him, his hands making fast work of the fly of his jeans, looking around for Xander's clothes.

"Good thing you told me 'bout that damn Initiative, pet - they're a right pain." Spike scooped up Xander's clothes, whipping them into a tight bundle. He pulled on his coat and grinned at Xander - did a quick drop and came up with his shoulder in Xander's stomach, getting the boy over his shoulder in one smooth motion.

"Ooompf. Oohhh damn, help, help, help!" Xander whispered, bracing his hands on the upper curve of Spike's buttocks. "I'm being kidnapped by a horrible vampire! I'm being vampnapped by a horrible kidpire! I'm being hidnapped by a korrible vidpire!" Spike spanked him once, a ringing slap, and Xander yelped.

"Quiet, pet. Pretend I knocked you unconscious so's you wouldn't know the way to my secret lair." Xander wiggled a little, then sighed happily as Spike turned his head and kissed the stinging spot where his hand had just landed.

"Taste like grass," Spike whispered, and slipped away into the darkness.


Year of the Cat


The pain is unrelenting. Who knew that your ribcage was so - flexible? Every time Xander takes a breath, he can hear it, creaking and groaning under the bandages. He can feel the broken ends rubbing together ever so slightly. And oh God it hurts. He wishes he didn't have to breathe - briefly wishes he were a vampire - but then, if he were a vampire he'd be all healed up by now, and it wouldn't matter.

Four days, lying in this rigid hospital bed. Four days of that stale, warm, antiseptic air, that always makes him feel like he's suffocating. Four days of bustling, cheery nurses who take blood pressure and temperature and pat him on the shoulder. Four days of no TV, because he head just aches; concussion and a cracked skull, they say, you got lucky. During the day, he wakes up and looks around, and Buffy will be there, or Willow, or Tara or Dawn, spelling each other on Xander-sitting duty. Giles comes by towards evening, and Anya pops in at odd hours. Even Joyce has been by, but she is uneasy in the hospital, and Xander doesn't blame her.

His parents haven't come by, but he's glad of that. Three long nights, when he wakes shuddering, gasping - trying so hard not to move or breathe too deeply but the scenes in his head just won't quit, and he cries, finally - tries not to sob or gasp but does, anyway. Feels the cold tears threading into his hair and in his ears and whimpers every time he has to breathe. He fingers the call-button but doesn't push it - doesn't want light and noise and clucking sympathy, just wants…something.... The fourth night, he wakes to a light touch on his cheek and his eyes fly open, his heart surges in panic.

"There, love, just me." Whiskey-and-honey voice out of the gloom, and Xander catches his breath and almost cries again, because he's so glad, so very glad.

"Sspike..." he whispers, and the cool fingers ghost over his face - down his throat. They flutter over his cast, over the bandages and the I.V. and come back to his head, to softly comb through his hair.

"I've got you, pet," Spike whispers, and the bed shakes a little as the vampire settles, light as a feather, on the edge. Xander sniffs and breathes and tries to move, but his ribs send little hot knives through his chest, and his back is one huge ache and he groans - tries to muffle it.

"Love, what happened?" Spike's hand, still petting through his hair, and it feels so good, that cool skin, that delicate, loving touch, and Xander pushes a little into the vampire's palm, his eyes falling shut.

"You heard about - Glory? New nasty in town?" he murmurs, and the hand hesitates - resumes it's soothing rhythm.

"Yeah. She's got these little goons - they're runnin' all over town, tryin' to recruit everybody. She's crazy, pet."

"Yeah. She's a god, Spike. Hellgod. She wants something that - that Buffy's got. She thought - I had it. So...this." The hand has stopped altogether, and Xander opens his eyes, and looks up at the profile that's limned in the glow from the hallway. Dark eyes on his and they flare for a moment, lambent gold and then human again, and Xander shivers just a little. Spike's hand slides weightlessly down his arm - skips over the I.V. and the long fingers are twining with his, squeezing gently.

"This, what? She attacked you?"

"Her - little goons. They heard me talking to Buffy, thought I knew where this - thing was. So they jumped me, dragged me off t-to her place. She...tried to make me t-tell her - " Xander's throat is closing up fast, and Spike's hand grips tighter - loosens. He leans forward, and Xander gasps in helpless delight as Spike nuzzles into his cheek, kisses him all over his face, being extra-gentle over the long track of stitches that march from left temple to jaw. That eye is still mostly swollen shut - his lips are stiff with the special glue they used, instead of stitches. But Spike kisses him, merest pressure of lips and the shallowest dart of tongue. Just enough to make Xander want more. Enough to make him smile lopsidedly. He's surrounded by Spike's scent, now - leather and smoke, lemon and caramel - and it's heady and heavenly after the oppressive deadness of the hospital air.

"Didn't know you had a thing for Frankenstein's monster, Spike."

"Love -" Spike's voice chokes off, and his hand grips a little too hard, for just a second. Xander squeezes back.

"I'll be ok." He says. He feels as if he's floating. Not even Willow's stoic cheerfulness and daily babble have made him feel this good.

"Course you will, pet." Spike lifts their hands - rubs his cheek along the back of Xander's hand, presses his knuckles to his mouth.

"So - what is this thing? Why does she want it?" Xander thinks about that for a minute - long enough to make Spike shift on the bed.

"It's - a magical thing. A key. She has to have it to go back to - wherever she came from."

"Oh. So - why not give it to her? Then she's gone -"

"Can't. It - it opens a portal to her dimension. And when that happens...Giles says all the walls between the dimensions will come down. Everything will just - be gone. All of us, and the world...everything. These monks - they were hiding it from her forever. She killed them all." A long silence, and then Spike is kissing his fingers again - nibbling on the tips and slipping them into his mouth, sucking gently. Xander closes his eyes, just feeling that - trying not to breathe too deeply, trying not to gasp when Spike places a soft, open-mouthed kiss in the palm of his hand.

"Oh, God...Spike..." he whispers, and Spike's other hand is stroking his hair again - running lightly down his chest and worming under the sheet - cupping the arch of Xander's hip in his hand and rubbing gently. Xander feels his cock hardening - shifts a little in the bed and flinches when his ribs flare, white-hot. "Ow, fuck -" Spike freezes - inches his hand away and Xander puts his free hand on top of it, clumsy in the cast, holding it in place.

"It's okay, it's - everything just hurts, fuck -" Xander feels tears threatening and squeezes his eyes shut. He feels so stupid, crying over this, but it just won't let up, and its torture, because he has to breathe and that hurts and he has to pee and that hurts, and there just doesn't seem to be one thing that he can stop doing so he'll stop hurting.

Spike's hand goes back to that gentle caress on his hip, and suddenly he leans forward - kisses Xander's face, tongue darting at the tears that have edged out between his eyelids. "I know somethin' that would help with that," he murmurs, biting oh-so-gently on Xander's jaw, and Xander shivers and opens his eyes.

"Wh-what do you mean?" he whispers, and Spike nuzzles lower - kisses Xander's throat, right below the hinge of his jaw - trails his tongue there for a moment. His hand has moved lower - is now stroking Xander's belly.

"A little taste of my blood. A few swallows. It'll help you heal up ever so much faster. Make all this hurt go away."

"Really?" Xander turns his head so that his cheek is rubbing on Spike's head - on the slightly crunchy hair and one cool ear.

"Really, pet. Got magic in it, doesn't it? Lots of magic, to keep this body like it is - magic to turn blood into fuel. Make those ribs stop hurting - make your face feel better." Spike's voice is low and soothing, his lips just brushing Xander's collarbone and shoulder - pausing to lap at the hollow of his throat. Xander moves his hips very carefully - arching up a tiny bit into Spike's hand, into the fingers that are combing through his pubic hair.

"What - will it do anything else to me? I mean -" Xander stops, and he feels Spike's mouth smile against his chest.

"Won't turn you, if that's what you're thinkin'. It'll just heal you up a bit faster and...." He dips lower, to the edge of the bandages. Takes a nipple into his mouth and sucks - bites - and Xander grits his teeth and breathes slow, slow. He groans aloud when Spike's hand cups his balls - lifts and tugs and rolls them in his hand.

"Spike - oh God - please -" Xander wants to thrust - to pant - to open his legs and take Spike in but he can barely move and he's getting lightheaded from the shallow breathes he's forcing himself to take.

"Want to, pet?" Spike whispers, and his hand slides the length of Xander's cock - squeezes.

"Oh, yeah, oh - want to - " Xander can hardly see - can't think, with Spike's hand there and his mouth there and, oh fuck. Spike's thumb over the head of his cock, and then Spike is sitting up - lifting his hand to his mouth and licking his thumb, his eyes glittering at Xander, demon-gold.

"Alright love. Ready?"

"Yeah, I - wait. You said 'and'. 'And' what?"

"Hmmmm?" Spike slides his thumb out of his mouth - puts it back on Xander's cock. Xander squeezes their still-linked hands.

"What's the 'and'?"

"You'll just - make the other vamps think twice, is all. Have a bit of me in you, they'll know it. It'll make 'em...wary."

"Oh." Xander thinks about that - twitches a little as Spike's hand continues its slow petting of his cock - his hips and belly. "Ok, then. It won't - Buffy won't -"

"Nah. Not enough to do that." Spike leans down and kisses him again, a little harder this time, a little deeper, and Xander's head is swimming, ringing. Spike pulls away and raises his wrist to his mouth, holds it out, and Xander sees the cut that he's made there. Razoring fang slicing easily through the pale skin and blood is welling up, black in the dimness. Xander can smell it, a salt-metal smell, with an underlying citrus tang that reminds him of tequila, margaritas - something.

He opens his mouth, and Spike is pressing his wrist to his lips, and the blood suddenly flows in and Xander is drinking it. Spike mewls softly; his head ducking down low, his hand stuttering to a stop on Xander's cock. Xander drinks; metal-salt-citrus and some underlying spice, peppery and bright, somehow, that he thinks is the magic - the demon. It's savory and wonderful and it seems to flood him with tingles of electricity, of heat, even though Spike is cool against his mouth, and the blood is cool on his tongue. He swallows again and again, and Spike is panting now, moving on the bed, and Xander reaches out and presses the flat of his hand to Spike's groin. He's hard, under the denim, and his hips jerk spasmodically forward into the touch. Suddenly Spike is pulling away, and Xander tries to follow - to take more - but Spike puts the wrist to his own mouth, licking it clean, and his eyes are wide and feral, watching Xander.

"Spike, that...God -"

"Oh yeah, pet. Good, isn't it? Almost as good as when I drink from you." Spike darts forward, sealing his mouth over Xander's, his hand suddenly tight and sure around Xander's cock. Xander arches up into that cool grasp, and the pain from his back, from his ribs flares up and then out and becomes something more - something else - and he can feel Spike's blood in him, feel it working through him. Spike is licking into his mouth like a cat and Xander scrabbles with his un-casted hand at Spike's jeans - jerks the fly open, pop of metal buttons. Spike's cock is sticky-wet, so hard, and Xander tugs at it - tugs at Spike while he scoots a little lower in the bed - turns on his side.

"What - Xander -" Spike finally pulls away, gasping, and Xander tugs again.

"Come up here, want to taste you," he whispers, and Spike groans. Xander is on his side now, the grating of his ribs lost in the curling wave of giddy heat and sparks that is Spike's blood. Spike stands - moves to the head of the bed and his cock is right there, just the right height and Xander snakes forward and pulls him in. As his mouth closes around Spike the vampire shudders, and one hand is on Xander's neck, urging him forward, the other on the bed.

Xander sucks - licks - lets his teeth scrape the sensitive head, lets his tongue flutter along the underside. He pulls Spike closer by one hip - cups the taut buttock in his hand and digs in a little, pulling at Spike and wishing he didn't have a cast on the other hand. Spike's legs are trembling - the bed frame is creaking where his hand is closing down on it and Xander pushes a little further - gets Spike as far back in his throat as he can and sucks, letting his teeth bite down just a little, pushing one fingertip in, twisting and pulling. Spike is gasping - panting - trying to be quiet as he comes and his hips are thrusting hard. Xander swallows again and again, the edge of pain in his sore jaw spurring him on, the taste rich on his tongue. When Spike finally relaxes, slumping a little into the bed, Xander pulls back slowly, making sure to get every drop, kissing and licking until Spike lets out a breathless laugh and pulls away.

"Love, that was...gotta do that more often." Spike crouches down and kisses him, that hand still on his neck, pulling him close. Then he's gliding down, trailing wet tongue and sharp teeth, and the water-cool flesh of his mouth takes Xander to the root, one fast downward push. Xander's hip strain forward - he claws the sheet and tries not to shout and Spike growls around his cock - slides his fingers down Xander's back and to the crease of his buttocks.

The blood is singing in Xander's veins - in his head - and it makes every touch feel like fire, like needles. It's shivery and breathtaking and good and Xander pulls his leg up, his cast behind his knee and Spike is pushing two fingers into his mouth, pressing on his tongue and Xander sucks. Then the fingers are gone, are pushing into him with a twist, a sharp scrape of nail and Xander muffles his shout in the pillow and is coming, so hard. Spike sucks - swallows - mouths his cock until he can't stand it anymore, until it almost hurts and Xander pushes lightly on his shoulder, pushing him back.

Spike draws away, grinning, and Xander just collapses, breathing more deeply then he has since he got here. There is a shock and flare at every inhalation, but it's not really pain, and Xander barely notices that Spike has pulled up the sheet - tidied himself away. The vampire lifts the pitcher on the bedside cabinet and shakes it - pours water out into a cup and holds it where Xander can reach the bendy straw that's poking over the top. Xander sucks the water down - closes his eyes and smiles as Spike puts the cup aside and crouches down - resumes kissing him, slow and sweet. After a bit they break apart, and Spike pushes sweaty hair off Xanders forehead.

"Better now, pet?"

"Oh yeah. Can we do that again tomorrow?" Spike chuckles - pushes at Xander's cheek with his forehead.

"Maybe better not. Try the day after, all right?"

"Mmmm. You're the boss," Xander murmurs. His eyes are closing - there is a warm and heavy lassitude washing over him like the tide, and he sinks into it without a struggle.

"Don't you forget it," Spike whispers, and kisses him again.

"Love you," Xander says, on a sigh. He'll remember later that Spike takes in a sharp breath at that - that his voice has a tremble in it as he speaks. But for now, all he can do is smile, because Spike pets the side of his face - his hair, and whispers back.

"Love you too."


When Xander wakes up, he feels...refreshed. Spike is next to him in the bed, propped against the extra pillows and reading one of the magazines that Willow brought. The clock on the TV says 4:27, and Xander blinks and rubs his eyes, goes up on one elbow and smiles at the vampire. He still hurts, but the pain is muted now - blunted. Spike looks at him over the magazine and smiles back.

"What'cha readin'?" Xander asks, and Spike turns the magazine towards him a little.

"Something about Chinese Astrology. What year were you born?"

"1981." Xander says, and Spike runs his finger down the magazine page.

"Huh. Year of the Monkey." He glances up at Xander, eyes bright with amusement. "Figures."

"Ha ha," Xander says, swatting his leg. "What's it say about Monkey people?" Spike snorts laughter and Xander feels compelled to swat him again.

"Stop that. It says your secret ambition is to be a hero. And...that you have an 'inner spirit imbued with the lightning energy of our ancestral primates'". Spike is grinning and Xander sticks out his tongue.

"Whatever. What about you? What are you?"

"Hrmmm...1880..." Spike muses, and looks down the page.

"You were born in 1880?" Spike glances at him, the demon surfacing for a moment.

"In a manner of speaking," he says, and Xander stares - grins. "Ok - Year of the Cat. Cat people...let's see... 'exceptionally sensitive and unusually alert'...and…'high degree of intelligence and refreshing honesty'... Ooh, others are not as quick-witted as we are!" Spike smirks over at Xander and he snatches the magazine out of the vampire's hands, tossing it to the floor.

"Does it say anything about snotty and stuck up?" Spike makes a lightning-fast move and Xander finds himself being kissed into breathlessness. His hands are under the coat, clutching Spike's t-shirt in his fists, and Spike growls happily into his mouth.

"You just don't wanna hear the truth," he says when he finally pulls back, and Xander rolls his eyes.

"Riiiight," he drawls. Spike leans into him for a moment, small sigh, then he's sitting up, looking towards the door and the hallway beyond.

"Doin' rounds or somethin' out there. Time for me to go, pet."

"Okay...see you tomorrow?"

"Course, love." Spike helps him get settled in the bed - smoothes the sheet over his chest and looks at the I.V - touches the cast. "How long?"

"Hmmm? Uh - in here, a couple more days they think. The cast and stuff...six weeks."

Spike nods - smiles at him. "We'll shorten that up in no time. Amazing healing factor of vampire see-"

"Stop!" Xander mock-growls, and Spike leans down for one last kiss, fingers brushing through Xander's hair.

"See you tomorrow, love," he whispers, and then he's up and moving, towards the door.

"Spike -" Xander calls, and the vampire pauses, looking back at him.


"I meant it, you know." Spike looks at him for a long moment, head to one side. And then he smiles, huge and happy and free of any snark or smirk.

"Yeah? Me too." And he's gone, rustle of leather, and Xander snuggles happily into the pillows that have Spike's scent on them, just faintly. Smoke and leather and caramel. It's what love smells like.


Cat Scratch


He is there when Spike gets up - hollow-eyed, thinner than he should be. Dark hair unkempt, jeans ragged. Spike just looks at him, huddled in front of the fireplace, and goes to get a cigarette. Xander watches him - sits curled in on himself, silent. Spike gets his smoke, lights it, finally crosses over to the hearth and crouches down, tight black jeans and nothing else, looking at the mortal.

"What's wrong, pet?"

"Willow...." Xander's voice is cracked - raspy, and he coughs and tries again. "Willow had us all - meet her last night. She...wants to bring Buffy back."

Spike shoots to his feet, cursing, and Xander flinches away and ducks his head. Bloody hell what is the witch thinking!

Spike paces to the door and back, smoking furiously, shooting glances at Xander who just huddles there. Fear and misery and fatigue - Xander is so tired - and Spike finally relents. He goes back over to the fireplace and settles down next to his boy - pulls him in tight and holds him. Xander clings and shivers, close to tears, and Spike pets his uncombed hair, strokes his back and shushes him. The light is gone from the sky, and an early firefly bobs erratically in the mansion's garden. After a bit Xander sits up, and looks at Spike with bruised, pleading eyes.

"What - what would happen if she did? What would -"

"No!" Spike stares at the boy, incredulous. "Forget it, love. You're not bringing her back."

"What do you mean, I'm not." Xander's eyes narrow and Spike wants to slap him.

"You can't. Didn’t the witch tell you?"

"Tell us what? She said she could do it - she could bring her back, back out of h-hell."

"What makes you think she's in hell, pet?" Spike asks, sarcastic, and Xander looks taken aback.

"Well, Willow said -"

"Oh, 'Willow said'. The same bloody Willow who wants to bring someone back from the dead! She's fuckin' crazy."

Xander pulls away, affronted, desperate. "She's not. She said - when Buffy died it wasn't natural. It wasn't - like it was supposed to be, with the monks messing everything up and - all that. So she's - she's trapped in a hell dimension and we have to get her back!"

There's something more than concern-for-his-friend in that, and Spike takes a long, last pull on the cigarette - tosses the butt into the coals in the hearth. "How does the witch know she's in hell? She was the Slayer - that gets her a ticket straight up, don't you think?"

Xander stares at him, dark eyes wide and hopeful, and then they shutter, and he turns away, shaking his head. "No, because she - she died in that portal. She died between the dimensions and - and that..." His voice trails off to silence, and Spike reaches out and tentatively touches the hunched shoulder - rubs gently until Xander sighs and leans into him.

"You can't know that, Xander. And - the kind of mojo the red witch is messin' with is - bad. It's not somethin' you just do on a whim -"

"It's not a whim!" Xander glares at him. "Damnit, Spike, she's got it figured out; she's got all the stuff, stuff that was hard to find... Just 'cause you're scared of magic -"

Spike growls, warning, and Xander flinches away and then frowns - straightens. "I'm scared of this kind of fuckin' mojo 'cause it's bloody easy to fuck up! If one thing - one tiny thing goes wrong - you won't get the Slayer back, you'll get a fuckin' demon in her skin, or you'll get her but she'll be wrong, Xander, and that's if your lucky! She probably won't be right even if you do it perfect!" He is right in Xander's face now, shouting, and the boy is looking terrified and furious at the same time - near tears again and trembling, but his mouth is in a hard line, his jaw clenched and jumping with tension.

"You don't -"

"I don't know? Course I fuckin' know! Angelus was always fuckin' around with that kind of crap, especially when Dru got interested. I've seen some damn fucked up things happen and the only reason I'm still here is 'cause I was smart enough not to get mixed up in it! This could kill you, Xander!"

Right in his face on that last, and Xander gasps in a hard breath - just stares at him, and suddenly Spike is knocked back into the hearth because Xander is on him, kissing him hard and desperate, hands digging into his back and his neck and this sound, this whimper, coming from the boy's throat. Spike wraps his arms around him and kisses back, knowing desperation - knowing nerves - are most of this. This whole summer Xander's been getting more and more ragged - more frayed. All his little friends are trying to fill in for the dead Slayer but Xander is trying hardest of all and Spike's been running interference for him - making sure the bigger and nastier nasties are waylaid before they ever get in scenting distance of his boy.

But it's not helping like it should - there's something else here - and Spike is going to find out what it is, tonight, by whatever means necessary.

Xander is hot and vital and so needy in his arms, and Spike slides his hands under the buttoned shirt and pushes - tears at it when it won't cooperate and flings the pieces aside. Xander is kneeling over him now, groin pressed tight to groin, and he pulls back minutely - looks Spike in the eye.

"Love you," he whispers, and that sends a surge of electricity all through Spike - to his unliving heart and his belly and his cock, which is hardening rapidly. Those words - that word - enough to make him moan, enough to make him come, when Xander is in him and on him and whispering it in his ear - holding Spike's wrists in his hands and just chanting that as his hips mindlessly buck and slide, buck and slide.

"Pet - Xander, love you -" Spike whispers back, and Xander is clawing at his naked back now, his hips moving in a slow grind, and Spike gets one hand in Xander's hair, one into the waistband of his jeans. Xander groans into his mouth, tongue darting and licking at Spike's, and Xander tastes like apples, like sweet tea and like chocolate, and Spike can't get enough - can never get enough.

But suddenly Xander is pulling away - panting a little but pulling away, pushing at Spike's shoulders and getting to his feet. Spike unfolds easily, catching his arm, tugging him towards the bed but Xander stops him.

"No, I can't. Spike, I gotta - gotta go. I'm -" he stops talking - bites his lip and looks around - picks up his ruined shirt and frowns.

"Go where, pet? We should finish this first -" Spike murmurs, but Xander shakes his head, twisting the shirt nervously in his fingers.

"No, I - gotta go - m-meet -" Spike hisses, the demon surging to the fore, because what's coming off Xander is fear and...deceit.

"Now where do you have to be running off to, boy," Spike says, voice soft, and Xander clenches his jaw hard - looks as if he might bolt at any second. The human's heart is pounding double-time, sweat is beading on his lip, and Spike knows - he knows.

"It's tonight, isn't it? Tonight, you're gonna try this fuckin' insanity. That where you're going?" He stalks forward, head down, hands out to his sides and open, ready to grab. Xander is backing slowly away and suddenly he drops the shirt and runs, dashes for the garden and the steps out and Spike pounces. He's got Xander around the chest - around the throat - and he yanks him back into the room, holding him tight. Xander yells, struggles madly, kicking backwards and almost getting Spike in the nose with the back of his head.

"Fucking hell!" Spike hauls him around - flings him towards the empty space between the sitting room and the bedroom - and Xander stumbles forward five and six steps. Catches himself and whirls around, his face a mask of rage and panic.

"Spike, don't! I have to!"

"No you do not! And you won't." Spike sweeps forward and crashes into Xander, pushes him back, hard, into the wall. Xander yelps as he connects sharply with stone and then Spike is grabbing up the chains, the chains left from when Angel came back, and in minutes the manacles are around Xander's wrists and he's standing there, yanking on them, leaning on the hook in the ceiling and his furious eyes well with tears that he blinks away.

"Spike! Let me go, damnit, let me go! You can't do this! I have to meet them!"

"You don't have to do any such bloody thing. And you won't. I'm gonna find that damn witch and tear her fuckin' heart out!"

Xander's eyes go absolutely huge and then his face crumples and he's sagging to his knees, sobbing, still yanking on the chains but his hands are shaking now. "No, no, Spike please, you can't! No, please, please -"

"You're not going to be part of this, Xander. No fuckin' way. And it's not gonna happen. They're not gonna bring back some - some fucking zombie or something and try to pretend it's her. Don't you see - what that would do to you?"

Spike is crouched down by Xander now, trying to make the boy look at him, trying to sooth him, but Xander just shudders away and continues to sob. To beg. Spike finally stands up and goes to his room. Gets a t-shirt and his coat and pulls on his boots. He lights a cigarette and walks back to Xander. The human is still crying, but softly now, hopelessly.

"I'll be back in a bit, love. Don't fret." Spike walks out.


He's gone a few hours - three maybe, or four. He'd gone straight to the Slayer's old house and watched them. Watched them dither and worry and finally just go; the crazed spell more important than finding out if Xander was alive or not. He'd followed them, and scared living hell out of them, and hunted a little, to get rid of some excess energy. Now he's back, standing in the shadows outside the open door. Watching Xander. Learning things. Learning that Xander was scared of the spell, but didn't know what else to do. Learning that Xander was tired, so very tired, of killing, and fighting. Learning that he blamed himself for the Slayer's death. Xander had ranted and sobbed and yanked on the chains until his wrists bled, and now he is in a huddle on the floor, back to the wall and his head down on his knees. Shivering a little. Spike scents his blood, and the demon flickers out for a second, wanting it. Then he calms and goes inside - tosses his coat aside and goes in, to stand over the silent, miserable boy.

"Xander," he says, and the human stirs - looks up at him, his eyes red and burning - desolate. "Know what this is?" Spike holds up the jar - the one the witch had, and had tried to protect - and Xander's eyes widen.

"That's -" His voice is a wreck, hoarse and broken, and he swallows and grimaces - tries again. "That's that jar of Osiris...something like that. Willow said -"

"Only one in the world is what she said." Spike looks at the jar - weighs it in his hand - turns and throws, one smooth motion, and the jar hits the far wall and shatters, a thousand fragments that can never be mended.

"None at all, now." Spike says, and he digs the manacle keys out of his pocket, leans down and unlocks the chains and lets them clank to the floor. Xander looks at him the whole time; looks at him as a child looks at the father who just backhanded him. With fear, and love, and hurt, and loathing.

"Did you - did you k-kill -"

"No, pet - didn't touch the witches or demon-girl. Just scared 'em within an inch of their lives. They won't be doin' that kind of fool thing again." Spike reaches down and pulls Xander to his feet - lifts a bruised and bloodied wrist to his mouth and licks, slowly, teasing the blood away from skin with his tongue, shivering as the heady taste of his boy fills his mouth. Rich, sweet, alive, and he's already hard - already wanting. Xander lets him do it, but after a moment he pulls away - steps away and leans against the wall, and he hugs himself, looking at Spike from under his grown-out bangs.

"Spike - Spike you don't understand, we had to do that, we had to bring her back, to save her!"

"No Xander, you didn't. She doesn't need you now any more than she did when she was alive." Xander grimaces at that - a strange twist of his mouth that could be hurt or that could be hate, and Spike takes a step closer, wanting the blood again - wanting his boy, hot and tight around him. Safe.

"That's not - Fuck you, Spike! I - I had to do this! I had to - had to bring her back! You don't - you just don't fucking get it, you bastard!" Xander is off the wall now, closer, and Spike takes a deep breath, pulling his scent in.

"Oh, I fuckin' get it, Xander. You think if you can bring her back - bring her home - it'll all be all right again, it'll all be just like it was before. It's never gonna be that way again, Xander! She's dead, and you couldn't have stopped it and you can't change it. She's gone."

Xander is shaking his head, pressing his fists to his ears and Spike reaches out and tries to pull his arm down. And Xander lashes out - claws at him like a cat and Spike feels the ragged nails slicing across his cheekbone, jaw, lip. Feels the blood well there, and the cat-scratches stinging. Something clicks over, in his head. With a roar he launches himself at Xander and drives him into the wall - pins him there, the boy's feet barely touching the ground, Spike's hands digging cruelly into his biceps.

"You think you could have saved her, boy?" he sneers, and Xander kicks out - catches him all unexpectedly in the groin and Spike reels back a step and drops him, snarling.

"Fuck you, Spike - fuck you. I had the chance - I had one chance, to get up there and get Dawn and stop that fucking portal from opening and I fucked it up!" Xander actually pushes him, the human's eyes wide and wild and furious. "I didn't get up there fast enough and that - that demon was already there, he was cutting her and I - I didn't make it, don't you fucking get it, you bastard, don't you understand that if I'd just been five minutes faster Buffy would be alive, and Dawn wouldn't be falling apart and Willow and Tara wouldn't be wearing themselves out trying to - to be her mother and to fix all this and Giles.... Giles would still be here, don't you get it you undead bastard, that it's my fault!"

Xander almost screams the last - spins and brings back his fist and punches, straight into the wall and Spike hears the crack of bone, but Xander just stands there, fist to the wall, breathing hard, sweat beading along his spine and blood dripping from his mangled hand.

"Love - your hand -" Spike is human in an instant, hurrying forward to hold him, help him, but Xander twitches away and shoots him a look of pure contempt.

"Don't fucking touch me," he spits. Spike stands there for a moment, remembering that little click in his head. He's feeling like whatever it turned on - or off - is still there. He lowers his head, looking at the spattering of blood on the floor - looks up at Xander who blanches.

"Oh pet. You are so fucking wrong. Don't touch you? I'll do more than that." Spike reaches and sinks his fingers into Xander's hair - jerks his head back hard. In seconds he's right there, the demon snuffling over that arched, pulsing throat. His fangs scrape lightly from Adam's apple to collar bone, and Xander shudders convulsively under him.

"Just fuckin' do it, then. Do it and put me out my misery - it's what I deserve."

Spike freezes at those low, despairing words - freezes for an instant but the click is still working through him, the weird little half-step shift that is making him see things in an odd and too-bright light.

"Deserve? What, exactly, is it you think you deserve? A quick death? Fuck that. If you killed the Slayer - if you killed your best friend in all the fuckin' world, love - you deserve much worse."

Xander is pulling against him a little now, trying to free his hair and scrabbling at his chest with his good hand. Spike wrenches him around, brings his other arm tight enough across Xander's chest that the human can only draw half-breaths. Xander writhes there, panting, and Spike puts his fangs on his throat - sinks the tips in, just a little. Xander freezes - shudders all over - and Spike flings him forward, snatches up the chain and has the manacles on him again. He flings a loop of the chain up and over the hook and Xander is at full stretch, just on the balls of his feet, and Spike walks around him - stands looking at him.

"You fucked up? You think you deserve some punishment?" Xander is shocked - shocky - and he blinks and blinks again; nods finally, his eyes pleading. "Oh, pet," Spike steps up close, nuzzling into Xander's cheek - kissing him, soft and sweet. "I'll make it good, love - I'll make you suffer." Xander closes his eyes and Spike walks away, towards a closet. This, this is what's been wrong. This is what's been tormenting and harrying and wearing Xander down all summer. This is what's making him moan in his sleep and this is what's slowly leeching the life out of him. Guilt, so crushing and absolute that he can barely stand up under it - barely draw a full breath. And Spike knows - is pretty sure he knows - how to fix this.

Somewhere in the closet is a leftover from Angelus' tenure in the mansion. Some sort of whip, made of braided black leather with a tip thin as grass and Spike searches for it among the detritus that was left behind. Finds it, and runs its length through his hand. It's still fairly supple, after all this time, and he swings it once or twice, getting the feel. Not something he's done a lot, really. It was never really his kink, but he's done it enough. He goes back to where Xander is standing and walks up behind him - runs the coiled whip up his back - along his sides.

"Think this is what you need?" he purrs, circling around in front of the boy, and Xander gasps and flinches - stills himself.

"Yeah - yeah, it's...." His voice trails to silence, and he licks his lips - looks at Spike. The pain and self-loathing Spike sees in his boy's eyes hit him like hammer-blows. "Make me bleed for her, Spike." Xander's voice is raw, half gone. "Make me bleed for Dawn and Giles and Tara and Willow - make me bleed for them and maybe...maybe it'll be enough."

Spike looks at him for a long moment - leans in and kisses him, hard and possessive and rough, cutting Xander's lip, bruising his mouth. Spike withdraws slowly, licking the welling of blood, and grins.

"I'll fix it, love," he whispers. He walks behind Xander and kneels to yank off sneakers and socks, and then wrenches the jeans down and away. Stands for a moment just looking - letting his eyes take in the smoothly muscled expanse of sun-browned flesh. Memorizing the smooth sweep of skin from shoulders to buttock - across his hips. Acknowledges to himself that, no matter what he does, Xander's back will never be perfect again. Never be unbroken - unmarked.

But he's marked on the inside, already. And maybe it's better to have the marks out where you can see them. See them and...forget them, after awhile. He runs his hand from Xander's neck to the top of the swell of his buttocks, caressingly slow. Xander shivers.

"Just - please, Spike...." Xander whispers, and Spike steps back - lets the coils of the whip drop to the floor. Another shiver and the muscles in Xander's back are tight - jumping with tension and anticipation. Spike's arm goes up and back - forward - a hissing and then a crack like another broken bone. Xander doesn't scream until the fifth strike. Spike doesn't stop until the boy's voice gives out.


Standing behind him; two or three inches away, and Spike can feel the heat radiating from the lacerated flesh. Blood-scent is overwhelming, and Spike sways forward, back - closes his eyes and fights the demon for a moment. Opens them, and watches the blood well up and spill down with every heartbeat. He goes around, getting in front of Xander, and surveys that, dispassionately. The whip has curled around, here and there, making cuts across his ribs - his belly. One across his left nipple; one, when Xander had twisted, across the tops of his thighs and, glancingly, his penis. Xander knows he's there - slowly lifts his head, sweat-soaked hair falling back. His lips are bitten - bloody - his face tight with pain, streaked with tears. Somehow the whip has even found this, and there is a fine line of beaded blood along his jaw, on the left side. He opens his eyes, and Spike steps forward and cradles his face in his hands.

"There love, there.... You feel that? Can you feel that? That's guilt, love. Guilt, and shame, and sin, and failure. Pouring out of you, Xander. We let it out."

Xander blinks at him - wets his lips and his tongue is bloody, too. "Out...."

"Yes love. Out, it's all...out. Now - we do the magic." Spike steps around behind him, and the demon is eager - ready. He leans forward and puts his mouth on Xander's back and licks - again and again, while Xander writhes and shudders under him. The blood is cool against the fevered flesh. It does taste of guilt, and shame, and despair. But mostly it tastes of Xander, of his boy; tastes of chocolate and apples and Spike needs to take in little breaths. He's hard, and he wants to be inside, inside the heat. He licks everywhere there is blood, and when he comes around again, his mouth is bloody, and Xander stares at it.

"I can take all that sin, love. I can take all that guilt and shame. Doesn't hurt me - demon, remember? I can take it, and change it...." Spike puts his wrist to his mouth - opens the flesh there and presses it to Xander's mouth. He doesn't have to urge him - Xander drinks, desperately.

"You go on, love." Spike purrs, and he digs the keys out of his pocket - unlocks the manacles one-handed and Xander falls into him; arms dead weight and legs going out like a newborn's. "Not your fault, love," Spike whispers, cradling him - carrying him. Walking him over to the bed and its tangled sheets. "Not your fault, not at all. You saved her sister, you saved your friends, you did everything you could do. She's the Slayer, love, she had to die, and she died happy and she's not in hell, love, not your fault…."

Murmuring to his boy while blood-loss and demon's blood are making him dizzy - vulnerable - accepting. Worming those thoughts into his head while there's nothing else there to fight them off. Making him believe - letting the surging euphoria of endorphins and magic make it true. Spike lays him down on the bed, pulls his wrist away. Xander is panting, half-hard, watching him with a glittering, hectic gaze. The vampire pushes his jeans off - snatches up a bottle of massage oil that has fallen to the floor and opens it - fills his palm.

"You feel it, love? Feel the magic?" Spike murmurs, and Xander's breath hitches - catches - and he sighs, long and ragged. Spike's hand is on him, now - working the oil into him.

"Feel it. Sspike...." Rusty thread of a voice, and Spike gently, gently lifts his legs - kneels there, and gently begins to push in.

"All gone, love. All that hurt - all that hate. It's gone. Not your fault, my boy, my own...not your fault...." Spike bites his lip - eases forward - and Xander's head is twisting on the sheets now, his fingers catching at the soft, heavy cotton. Spike pushes a little more - is fully in - and Xander's eyes are fixed on his.

"Not my fault...." he gasps out, and Spike begins a slow rhythm, his eyes never leaving Xander's, his hands gentle on Xander's damaged flesh. Evan inside Xander is fever-hot and Spike cannot contain the groan of pure pleasure that rumbles up out his chest.

"No love, not your fault, not your fault, you were brave, and strong, and you did everything right, everything right...." Spike goes a little faster - Xander can't take much more, not matter he's hard and wet with desire. Spike's oily hand caresses chest and stomach - takes Xander's cock in a firm grip, and now Xander's hips are moving, just a little, rise and fall as he pants for breath. Spike leans forward, kissing him, tasting blood and tears, tasting fear and grief and love. Tasting desire, and hope.

Xander's hands creep into Spike's hair - clench there, holding him close, and Spike moves his hips, hits that so-sensitive place, deep in the human's body, and Xander is making that sound again, that whimper of lust and need and want. Spike draws away, nuzzles into Xander's neck and kisses there; tastes sweat and blood and lets his fangs graze the skin - sink them into muscle and vein and Xander is arching under him, crying out, semen hot across Spike's hand. Spike's own orgasm is a rolling wave of muted pleasure, and after another moment he cradles Xander to him; rolls them both, so Xander is on top of him and his poor back isn't pressed into the sheets anymore.

"My boy, my you Xander, love you." Spike whispers, long locks of mink-brown hair across his throat, across his lips. Xander is trembling - his hands still in Spikes hair - and he lifts his head and looks down at Spike. Looks at him and smiles; tiny smile, bruised and faltering, but it's enough, it's enough.

"Love you too, Spike." His voice is a little better - vampiric blood repairing the damage it would take days for his own body to heal. Spike lifts his head for a kiss, and then Xander lays his head down again, snuggling in close. "I was brave…."

"You were, love. So brave. As brave as the Slayer was, I promise." Xander sighs, contentment and exhaustion, and in a few more minutes he's asleep, and Spike holds him - holds him, as close and as tight as he dares. Later, the blood and semen will glue them together and pull uncomfortably on sore and sensitive skin. But for now this is perfect - this is heaven. The heat and the weight of the body above him are like an anchor, and Spike closes his eyes and breathes; kisses the shoulder that's under his mouth and tastes the essence of his boy. Sweet and savory and a tang like apples; hope and love. Most of all, love.



All Cats Are Leopards After Dark


Spike is having one very good day. He looks down at the body laid out on the concrete - nudges with one foot so that the splayed legs are together. Decorum, after all. He takes in a hard, deep breath and exhales with a roar. He feels the blood, spiced with lust, rage and terror, racing through him, repairing and replenishing. He's pretty sure he has a couple broken ribs - a fractured humerus on the left. And his face is bruised, lip split, jaw maybe cracked. It all aches but it aches in a good way, because he's standing here feeling it, and he's not dust.

And fuck, that blood, like fucking rocket fuel, like…. Spike tips his head back to the paling sky and laughs - spins and spins in place, his coat flaring out and around him, his arms raised to the sky. He feels he could almost withstand the dawn, with this blood arcing through him like a fucking lightning bolt - like Frankenstein's monster. But common sense tugs at him, whispers at him, and finally he turns and leaps up onto a parked car. Jumps from it to the next and the next, denting the hoods, kicking in the windshields. He runs, because if he doesn’t move he might just detonate - might just crucify himself in the sun just to feel that blood fighting the ultimate end. He runs like a greyhound through the frail lemon light of false dawn, towards home. Despite his aching face, he grins all the way.

His sleep is hard and fast and deep, and when he wakes he stretches out until tendons pop and joints creak. Naked and almost warm in the cotton sheets and he feels good - so very good. He props himself on one elbow and snags a cigarette from the bedside table, lights it and inhales, blows smoke towards the corner.

"Come out, pet," he says, and Xander snorts softly and steps forward, out of the deep shadows there. He looks - strung out, his human. Paler then a Southern California boy should be, his hair longer than ever and untidy; combed out by the wind, but not by anything else. His eyes - so deeply brown they often seem black - are set back into their sockets too far today. Shadowed, a little red around the edges, crowded with hunger. Xander walks slowly to him and settles on the edge of the bed. He brings with him a smoky scent, and scent of dead leaves, and the sea.

"What burned?" Spike asks, and Xander reaches out and runs one hand gently over what Spike knows are fading bruises - temple, cheekbone, jaw.

"Mr. Hawk, down the street? He was clearing out his garden - burning the dead stuff and some old trellis and it got away from him a little. I helped him get it back under control." Xander lifts his arm and sniffs at the faded chambray work shirt he wears. "Guess it kinda stays on you, huh."

"Yeah." Spike takes a last pull on the cigarette - flicks the butt away into the corner and pulls Xander close. His boy comes to him with a sigh, curling into him, tucking sneakered feet up onto the worn satin duvet; slipping one arm around Spike's waist and laying his other hand on Spike's naked stomach. Just placing it there, hot and heavy and possessive, and Spike grins.

"Ssso.... What're we gonna do tonight, pet?" Spike pushes his nose into Xander's hair - breathes deeply of the smoke smell and the just-turning-autumn smell that's best described as cinnamon and damp, rich earth. Been raining, these past couple of days, just a drizzle at sunset, and the damp air carries more scent than at any other time. He can smell the jasmine out in the garden, and the peppery scent of marigolds, and old, old blood. Xander is rubbing his cheek slowly, slowly over Spike's chest, faint scratch of stubble that makes Spike's skin tingle.

"I -" Xander sighs and twists a little, and Spike knows what he's doing - where he's looking. Over at the wall, and the chains, and the spatter of faded blood across the stone. Spike kisses Xander's temple and slides his hand up under his shirt, trailing his nails lightly up his boy's spine, making him shudder.

"You what, love? Need something tonight?" Xander sits up, and his eyes are wide and wet and full of some dark emotion - hate, maybe, or loathing, or need, strong enough to choke him.

"Need to fight," Xander whispers.

Fight and lose, Spike thinks, and he reaches out to run his fingers under the collar of Xander's shirt, grazing the delicate tracery of scars there; multiple bite marks from their four or so years together. Xander closes his eyes and sways towards him, and the smoke-smell is suddenly overlaid with sweat and the warm musk of arousal.

Spike runs gentle fingers up Xander's neck - pushes into the silky hair behind one ear and combs through and through the long strands. Rich sable brown, like a mink or a wolverine, and Spike combs and pets and twists it around his fingers, just a little. Then he sinks his hand in and yanks - pulls Xander's head back with a jerk and propels him off the bed. Xander stumbles, recovers, and swings a fist into Spike's ribs. Pure luck connects fist with still-sore rib and Spike hisses in displeasure and shoves him, hard, at the wall. Xander staggers and thuds solidly into stone - bounces off and comes straight back at Spike, fury in his eyes, his fists bunched and swinging.

Spike's been drinking his caramel-sweet blood for years, but Xander's been drinking vampire blood, and he's stronger than he was - faster. Heals a little quicker and notices things a little more. All his senses fine-tuned a couple notches higher than most other humans, and it's brought that lurking hyena sensibility closer and closer to the surface. More of the world looks and smells like prey to Xander these days, and it makes him a little edgy and a little mean, and a lot quieter. Makes him - feral - and it's never so obvious as when he's hurting, and needing, and wanting to kick out at the world. Then Spike sees what he keeps under his skin, and revels in it.

Xander lands another blow to the ribs - canny boy - and Spike backhands him, almost groaning aloud at the sudden scent of blood on the air. Xander's lip is split now, his eyebrow just about where Spike's old scar is, and he whips his head to one side, dashing blood away in a fine scatter of carmine drops. And launches himself again, and again. Five minutes, ten, and Xander is panting, bleeding from his knuckles as well, limping from a hard kick to the thigh. Spike's lip is bloodied, and his ribs creak a little, not happy. His arm is sore now, too; just-healed bone still tender.

Xander is crouching, head down, up close to the wall, and Spike stands still for a moment - still as only the unliving can be - and he sees the rage and resignation in Xander's eyes as the demon surges to the fore. Then Spike is on him, blindingly fast, driving him back into the wall so hard his boy's breath oomphs out of him. He can't fight this - can't even evade this - and Spike laughs as human teeth tear into his shoulder - as ragged nails open his back.

He grips Xander's face in his hand, thumb digging into his jaw, fingers across his mouth and pressing hard enough to split the lip again against bared and snapping teeth. He raps Xander's head once, sharply, into the stone and while his boy is reeling, dazed, he snatches up the chains and locks them on. He shreds the old stone-blue shirt off Xander's body and flings the pieces aside. Xander leans there, panting, crying - more blood on his shoulder, where Spike's nails have scraped. Bruises fanning along his ribs and collarbone, angry red.

"Now what's to do pet, eh?" Spike asks, panting a little himself, and Xander snarls and yanks on the chain - putting all his weight on the hook in the ceiling. The hook that held Angel, and has held Spike as well, a time or two. Spike bares his fangs in what might be a smile and saunters over to the bed to get a cigarette. Lights it, and smokes it slowly, watching Xander fight the chains.


"I need something I can...push against," Xander says, a week after the witches had tried to bring Buffy back. "I want - I want to hurt something - hit something...oh...but I don't want anyone else to h-hurt, I just…."

"You want to push against something you can't break, is that it pet?" Spike asks, deep inside him, curled over him and just rocking, rocking. Xander moves under him like the sea, rise and fall, salt and wet and warm as sun-baked sand.

"Yeah, I - I want to fight b-but - oh, oh - " Xander gasps, his head back and his throat arched up, honeyed skin beaded with blood, pulse fluttering, fluttering.

"You can fight me," Spike murmurs, twist of hip and nudge right there and Xander claws at his back - opens his mouth in soundless, agonized rapture.

"Ssss...Spike, oh please, oh -"

"We'll figure it out," Spike whispers, and then drinks deep, and Xander is clenched hot and hard around him, helpless and utterly Spike's, no one else's boy, just his own, and Spike is as lost as Xander is.


Now Xander asks for this; not every day, or even every week, but he asks, and then they fight. Spike locks those chains on so Xander can fight as hard and as desperately as he wants to - can scream and kick and claw and bite, like some rabid jackal, but ultimately, he loses. Ultimately he batters his fury and fear and desolation against the stone and the iron until it's shattered and gone. Until he can think again, and know that he's not to blame, not responsible - not, finally - the strongest one, and doesn't have to be.

Spike knows this - knows the fear and rage and pain that surge up in Xander are so strong that he's afraid he could crack the world in two. He knows Xander is afraid that he'll do something unforgivable one day, in the grip of those desperate emotions. And this...helps, but Spike knows it's not the answer. Knows this might get to be...too much, eventually. Might become something more - something else - and Spike doesn’t want that for his boy, his lovely, fragile boy. But tonight it's what Xander wants and Spike lets him have at it until Xander's wrists are torn and the iron is slick with blood.

Spike walks back to him, slow, and Xander watches warily from his place near the wall, hands on his thighs and slightly bent over, gasping in hard breath after hard breath. The salt of tears and blood and the bonfire smoke-smell thick and sharp and enticing.

"You done tryin' to prove something, then?" Spike sneers, and Xander snarls - snaps his teeth at Spike as Spike once more slams him into the wall; takes him down to the floor and wrestles him out of his jeans and shoes. Xander is so hard it looks painful - probably is - and Spike hauls him to his feet and pushes him face-first into the rough stone and holds him there. Twists the chains in one hand so Xander's arms are behind his back, and rubs his fingers over the slick fluid that's beaded thickly on the head of Xander's cock.

"You can't win this. No matter how hard you try. You can kick and scream and break things - beat me until your hands are bloody. But I'm always gonna win, Xander. Always." Spike laps with his tongue, blood and sweat in a line from Xander's temple, and Xander shivers and wrenches his arms, hissing.

"I'm the strong one here - I'm the one that says yes or no." Spike kicks Xander's legs wide - puts a hand slicked with pre-come and blood into the small of Xander's back. Puts his lips right at Xander's ear, cool breath ghosting over the pale shell of cartilage and skin.

"You fight me, love, you beat down on me with every bit of that rage, pet - you won't break me. Never break me." Spike slides his hand lower and roughly pushes two fingers in, breaching muscle that is as tense and aching as the body beneath him, and Xander cries out. Pushes his hips back even as he writhes and kicks back with one foot. Spike takes no time - uses no finesse. He twists his fingers - scrapes a nail across and across that most sensitive place and Xander shouts, his voice cracked and rough. Spike pulls back - pushes in with three fingers and presses, hard. Then he's grasping his cock in his hand - jerking the chains higher so Xander is forced to bend a little - spread his legs a little wider or risk losing his balance. Spike presses the tip of his cock into Xander - just waits there for one long moment and then surges forward - fast, hard, and unrelenting.

Xander screams - comes up on his toes and claws the air with his helpless hands. Spike feels the breaking of delicate tissues like teeth snapping through the skin of an apple. Doesn't matter - Xander is arching back into him with a frantic need, wrenching his shoulders and gasping in hoarse pants. Spike pulls back and slams in again, and again, and again - leans down and runs his tongue over Xander's back. Over the scars there, that make the tanned skin feel like raw silk - coarse and satiny at the same time. He lets one scalpel-sharp fang trace one of the scars - opening it and making it bleed, making it more permanent - and Xander is crying again, begging - pleading in a raw voice for more, for something else; for absolution and for rest. Spike lets go the chains and winds his arms around Xander's ribs - holds him tight enough to hurt him and just fucks him - letting this pain wipe out that other pain - letting this reality supplant all others.

Xander's hands are on the wall, clawing until his fingertips bleed, and Spike thinks remotely that blood has become their holy water - their benediction. Xander needs it as much as Spike ever has, and Spike closes his eyes and breaths it - wallows in it - his tongue rasping flat and hard on the Braille of old pain that criss-crosses Xander's back. He pounds into the heat and crush of Xander's body, lets his fangs scrape Xander's throat and frees one hand to grasp Xander's cock. To caress and then to squeeze, hard enough to cause a flinch. He sinks his teeth into Xander's neck, drawing hard on the wound and it's life bubbling into his mouth. Steamy-hot and sparking with his own demonic essence, redolent of lust and love and want, spiced with pain and rage. It's like champagne and opium and fiery old whiskey and Spike grinds forward, frantic, his eyes rolling back and his spine arched and rigid and crackling with fire. His orgasm is long and deliciously edged with pain - ache of rib and arm and face, sting of the many cuts and scrapes that Xander's sweat is burning in. Xander is panting, groaning - pleasepleaseplease from bitten lips.

When Spike can move again he pulls out and spins Xander around, crouches swiftly and takes Xander into his mouth, one fast push and his nose is touching the heaving belly, his throat is working spasmodically around slick, hard flesh. He presses three fingers back inside, deep and searching and pushing; sinks his nails into the hard muscle of Xander's buttock and pulls him open and sucks, and Xander shouts and arches off the wall and comes, shuddering.

Spike sucks until Xander is limp and then he stands slowly, rubbing against Xander like a cat, licking his way up the trembling body. Xander tastes like Lapsang tea - all smoke and salt and dark - and Spike can't get enough of it. He takes his time; following every scratch, every line of blood or sweat, mouthing every bruise. He's hard again by the time he's reached Xander's mouth. Xander is collapsed against the wall, barely upright, and Spike pulls him close and kisses him, tasting the flavors of China Black and blood and chocolate, still smelling the bonfire in Xander's hair. Xander kisses him back, a hunger and a desperation there that makes Spike pull away and look at him. Xander's arms are tight across his back - the chains slither and clink against Spike's thighs, chilly and heavy.

"You killed her last night." Xander says, voice raw and broken, and Spike leans in close, forehead to forehead, bodies touching all along their lengths and Xander is hard as well, hot against his belly. "You got your third Slayer last night," Xander whispers, and Spike knows, then, what this has been about, and he hugs his boy even closer.

"It's what I do, pet. What I'm made for. We dance, and they -"

"Die. Faith died." Xander's lips are right by his ear - then they are at his throat, and Spike knows what he wants - encourages him with a hand to the back of his head. Xander kisses, licks - then bites, hard and fast. Spike shudders against him, his eyes fixed on the ceiling and the hook and the swaying chains. They both grind into each other, and they both climax again, slick wash of fluid on bellies and thighs. Xander licks the bite he's made - rests his head back against the wall and looks at Spike. Spike looks back - brings back his human face finally, and touches the fine hairs that curl at Xander's forehead and temple.

"We can't be here anymore, love. We can't. You need -"

"Need to go," Xander rasps, and Spike kisses him, soft and quick.

"Yeah. Need to shake the dust off our feet and leave it behind, love - leave it all behind. It's eating you alive, Xander."

"I know." Xander shifts - sighs - pushes his fingers through Spike's hair and tugs him close for another kiss. This one is slow, and deep, and it speaks of things that Spike and Xander rarely say. Things they don't need to say out loud. Things that they say every single time they touch - every single time they look, or kiss, or bruise.

"Let's go soon," Xander whispers, and Spike nods, eyes shut, face buried in the sable hair and smoky flesh.

Fly from here like an arrow shot at the sky, and no one to know where we'll come down. Spike thinks, and imagines a black-shafted arrow arching stark against a summer sky. Happiness like that arrow, soaring so high it could pierce the vault of heaven.



Kitten Poker


The atmosphere in the room is tense, but Spike ignores it. He calmly discards a card - draws another. Does a small shuffle and then purses his lips.

"See your five, then. And raise. Five more." The Kkldur across from him scratches contemplatively at a boil - inspects its talons for a moment and sucks on one.

"Haven't got ten," it says finally, and Spike raises his eyebrow.

"Well, noooo. But I will have, once you've lost." The Kkldur goes through its ritual again: scratch, inspect, suck. Spike rather suspects it is sucking something off the talon but really, he doesn't want to know.


"Call, then." Spike reaches for the bottle on his left - pours a dollop of whiskey into his shot glass and tosses it back. The Kkldur watches him, and blows a gust of fetid breath across the table.

"You lose, you know we don't take IOU." The 'we' referred to its clan. Or family. Or something; Spike doesn't actually know, and doesn't care. Kkldur are famous for not letting things slide, and also famous for some pretty inventive ways of getting their pound of flesh. When only sunlight or a wooden stake can kill you, that can get...pretty uncomfortable.

Spike grins. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Heard it all before. Call or raise, no difference to me. I've got all night."

"Aaaall night?" Xander's voice, soft and a bit slurred, and Spike glances over at him, still grinning. His boy is sprawled over an old, ratty couch, bottle in one hand, glass in the other. Although Spike is pretty sure he's stopped using the glass. Old, faded, tight, and worn jeans, over nothing but skin. White a-line, ratty old hi-tops. Silken-brown hair tangled just past his shoulders. He looks like some sort of ad for expensive men's cologne, or maybe for an escort service. He looks utterly delicious, and Spike can't wait to taste him. But first, he has a game to win.

"Not all night, pet. Time for you, still." Xander smiles at him, his head tipped back, his throat arched and showing, quite clearly, the scars. The Kkldur glances over at Xander and makes a sort of shuddery motion with its whole body. Kkldur don't like humans.

The other two players - a vamp and Clem - shift impatiently. Clem gets a handful of chips out of a bowl and crunches them noisily. The other vamp has folded three hands ago and is now, Spike suspects, watching in the hopes of seeing him go down to the Kkldur. Or at least for a fight to break out so he can nab the pot and run. Spike shoots him a calculating glance and smirks when the other vamp quails visibly.

"Come on now, you gonna raise or...?" The Kkldur blows out another breath and reaches into the basket next to it - adding Spike's ten, and then five more. Its basket is now empty.

"Raise," it says, and pops an olive in its mouth. Clem looks at his hand - shakes his head.

"That's me out, guys." He drops his cards and sits back, cradling the bowl of chips.

"Hrmmm." Spike looks at his cards again - smiles at the Kkldur, who looks unimpressed. "I'm gonna raise you, mate. Did'ja see that nice black bike outside?" The Kkldur pokes at another boil - snags an olive on the same talon.

Don't eat the olives. Fuck.

"Harley Davidson."

"That's the one. I'm gonna raise you that." Spike tosses his motorcycle keys into the pot - pours himself another drink. He looks over at Xander, who has put down glass and bottle. Xander stands up - stretches slowly - then ambles over to the table. He leans on Spike - slides down him until he is in his lap, one arm around his neck and the other burrowing under Spike's coat and t-shirt. Xander's fingers are fever-hot, and trail slowly from hip to ribs and back. Spike pulls Xander close, arm around his back.

"What'cha gonna win for me?" he purrs into Spike's ear, and Spike slips his hand under the waistband of the jeans.

"Somethin' nice. These blokes always have something good," he murmurs back. Xander snuggles his face down into Spike's neck - starts to work his hand up the front of Spike's shirt. The Kkldur grimaces and looks at its hand, ducking its head down; avoiding the sight, or possibly scent, of the human.

"You got nothing that good," it rumbles. Spike shrugs - feels his eyes flutter halfway closed as Xander manages to get his hand up to Spike's chest - scratches at a nipple with rough nails.

"Never know, do ya? One more time, I say - raise, or call." Spike nudges Xander with his chin - catches his boy's mouth in a kiss. Whiskey and the faint, faint taste of his own blood, and Xander - apples, and sweet, and…. Xander shifts on his lap - grinds his hip into Spike's groin and teasingly nips at his lower lip. He's had a sip of vampire blood at the start of the night, to keep him from getting too drunk or too tired. Of course, it's made him horny. Which is fine by Spike. The Kkldur is getting agitated by the long kiss, and so is the other vamp. Clem just methodically crunches chips, loud in the silence. After a moment Spike pulls back - turns to face the Kkldur, who is making a bubbling sort of noise. Pissed off, then.

"Yes. I raise. I have this vehicle. 1959 DeSoto. Sportsman. I raise that, and call."

The Kkldur throws down his hand. "Full House. Queens over sevens." The Kkldur sits back, looking smug.

Spike looks at the cards - shifts Xander over just a little and shivers at the press of weight and heat into his erection. "Pretty good. But...." Spike lays his hand down, cards spread, and the Kkldur hisses in frustration. "Four of a kind, mate." Four kings and a five. Everyone looks down at the cards - look up at the Kkldur who is sounding like a pot boiling over now, all bubble and hiss.

"You cheat! I discard that king!" The room is utterly silent. Xander turns his head, looking at the Kkldur, and Clem stops with a hand halfway to his mouth. The other vamp pushes his chair away from the table a little, mouth going open in a silent 'oh'. Spike lets the demon surface.

"You care to repeat that, mate?" Spike asks, smooth and soft and oh, so calm, and the Kkldur flinches.

"I - I - make mistake."

Spike stares for another moment - deliberately shakes the demon away, and smiles a small, tight smile. "I thought so. So - keys?"

"They in vehicle." The Kkldur mumbles, and pushes itself to its feet. It is at least six feet, broad and lumpy with boils. Xander slithers off Spike's lap and snags his bottle, and Spike rises as well, Xander's hand in his. Spike pulls Xander close - presses a kiss to his temple.

"When we get outside, you stay close to the door, right? This'll be nasty." Xander shoots him a quick, smirking glance and nods, squeezing his hand. They go out the back door and up the short alley behind Willy's to the small, gravel parking lot. Spike's motorcycle is off to one side, gleaming under the streetlights. And the DeSoto. Spike has been looking for it for over a year - the bloody city had towed it, and it had disappeared into the sea of paperwork that was most police stations. It came up for auction two weeks ago, and he hadn't been able to buy it; short notice, daylight, all that. Now he has it back. The last thing he needs - they need. Clem had tipped him off to who had bought the car.

The Kkldur shuffles across the gravel and opens the driver's door - pulls the visor down and catches the key that falls out.

"Here is key. And there is uvkkt, and now you dust." The Kkldur nods over Spike's shoulder and Spike spares a glance at the three hulking figures that are circling in from out of the shadows. Clan, he supposes.

Spike grins - shifts to the demon. "You cheating bastard," he says. In one smooth motion he draws a knife from his boot and throws it, putting it squarely between the Kkldur's blinking, piggy eyes. The Kkldur's hands lift - scrabble - and it topples over in slow motion. The other three let out shrieks like kettles on the boil and Spike spins to meet them, catching sight of Xander out of the corner of his eye.

His boy lounges against the alley-mouth, one hand in his pocket, the other holding the bottle. He watches with interest as Spike leaps up and kicks one of the Kkldur in the head, denting the skull and sending the demon stumbling to its knees.

Steel toes do it every time, Spike thinks in satisfaction, and feels the grin stretching his mouth wide - feels the surge of adrenalin and bloodlust that is like champagne, cocaine, Slayer's blood. It's a good feeling. The Kkldur rely mostly on size and brute force, and they're no match for a vampire who can move twice as fast - and be twice as ruthless. In minutes the three are down with their clan-mate, gasping out last, dying breaths and Spike saunters over to the first one - plucks the DeSoto's keys from its stiffening fingers.

"You did discard that king, mate." Spike says, then goes back over to the alley and Xander, shedding the demon and tossing the keys and catching them, gleeful.

"I ever tell you that you are sooo fuckin' hot when you do that?" Xander slides his hands around Spike's waist - pulls him close for a hard kiss, pressing their hips together almost painfully tight. Spike sinks into that kiss - into the heat and the desire - and only surfaces when he hears an embarrassed cough.
It's Clem, standing and looking off towards the sky, shooting little glances at them.

"Uh...right. You done? I got your winnings here, Spike." Clem holds out a large wicker-work basket, and the kittens inside mewl and claw the sides. Xander puts out a hand and touches the basket.

"I'll bet Dawnie would like a kitten," he says softly, and Spike squeezes him a little tighter - lets him go.

"Pick one out, then, and we'll go. You got the keys to the bike, Clem?"

"Oh sure." Clem puts the basket down on the ground so Xander can look inside and pulls the bike keys from his pocket - holds them up for Spike to see. "And here's the money -" Clem digs into another pocket for the roll of bills. He'd bought the motorcycle from Spike two days earlier, and had agreed to let Spike use it in the game, so he could get the Kkldur to put the DeSoto in the pot. Wouldn't do to just kill the whole clan for his car - he had to at least appear legitimate. Of course, if the Kkldur hadn't put up the car, he'd have killed them all anyway. But this way he got to play some poker. Spike takes the bills and tucks them away.

"Ta, mate. You did good tonight."

"Thanks Spike," Clem grins, bobbing in place just a little, and Xander stands up with two kittens, one in each hand. Spike feels his eyebrow going up.

"Can't have one cat alone - they get lonely. And with Willow gone - " Xander bites his lip, and Spike reaches out and gently strokes his fingers through Xander's hair.

"Yeah. C'mon, let's go."

At Xander's insistence, they stop at the open-all-night discount store to get food, bowls, a round, plush kitty bed, an assortment of catnip mice, litter and litter box and two collars. Red for the mostly-black kitten who has a white tail-tip and one white ear, and blue for the Siamese mix that has the mask and dark tail, but white paws. Xander gets a card, too - a blank one with stars and moons on it, and spends the ride over to the Summer's house writing in it. Spike is silent, giving him privacy. He knows this is hard.

They put everything on the porch - make sure the basket Clem found for the kittens is latched tight - and ring the doorbell. Xander smiles as they trot away, back to the DeSoto, and they don't stay to see the door open, or Dawn and Tara come outside.

Spike wants to see how the car has held up, so he takes them out to Highway 101 and blasts north, going as fast as he can. The Kkldur has had the car cleaned out and cleaned up, and it's almost like the day he took it. Xander sits with his sneakers up on the dash, looking out the window, his hair whipping across his face and back. His hands are clenched tight on his knees, and Spike knows he's thinking too much about things that can't be helped.

They drive for half an hour, maybe - just to Santa Barbara, and Spike takes them to the beach, Isla Vista. There are bluffs there, overlooking the water, and he ignores signs and sidewalks and parks the DeSoto close enough to see the water. Xander just sits, and Spike gets out of the car and goes to the front - leans on the warm hood and lights a cigarette. The ocean breeze blows straight into his face, cool and damp and full of scents, carrying sounds from up the coast. A crescent moon hangs low, silver sickle in the soft navy sky. It's nearly three a.m., but there is still some traffic in the city. Spike smokes, and waits, and after a bit Xander gets out, walks to the edge of the bluff and looks down at the surf. The wind curls and lifts and combs his hair - enough to make Spike jealous - and he flicks the cigarette butt away and gets up close behind Xander. Arms around his waist, chin just on Xander's shoulder in his boots, and Xander leans back into him, sighing. His boy's skin is cool, his body trembling ever so slightly. Spike hugs him tight - kisses the side of his neck.

"Alright, pet?"

"Alright. We're really - gonna go, huh."

"Really are. We have to love, you know that."

"I know that," on a sigh, and Xander turns and buries his face in Spike's neck, arms pushing under his coat, and Spike wraps it around him and holds him close. Rubs his hands gently up and down Xander's back - kisses the wind-roughened hair.

Since Spike killed his third Slayer - over a month ago - things have just...been different. The dark Slayer's death has shattered beyond repairing the fragile friendships that the two witches and Xander have tried to maintain. With the watcher gone, and Buffy dead for all time, things have simply gotten - strained. And the red witch made them all afraid; using magic more often, using stronger magics, and magics that had consequences she didn't seem to care about. The Glinda-witch had finally asked her to move out, and now she alone took care of Dawn. The absent father stayed absent - sent money and instructions and permissions, but didn't surface. Xander had quit his job at the Magic Box - demon-girl was selling out - and had come to live with Spike.

Spike smiles at that thought - lets the rusty purr he seldom admits to rumble out from his chest. He loves having Xander there; having his warmth and his laughter. Having him, just there, to touch or look at or kiss whenever he wants to. They'd spent days in the mansion, wrapped up in each other, just talking, or listening to music - just resting against each other. Resting battered hearts and weary minds. A healing time, for his boy. A time for him to be done with his old life - with the Hellmouth. Time to ready himself to leave.

Xander breathes deeply, his arms tight around Spike's ribs, his mouth warm and wet against his neck. He lifts his head fractionally - takes Spike's earlobe gently between his teeth.

"Want you," he whispers, and Spike shivers all over in delight.

"C'mon." Spike turns them and guides Xander to the car - takes off his coat and tosses it into the front seat. He opens the back door and slides inside and Xander scrambles in after him, shutting the door. In the dimness Xander toes off the hi-tops - undoes the jeans and pushes them down. Spike is doing the same; tossing his t-shirt into the front and pushing his jeans down. Before he can get them off Xander is on his lap, heavy and warm, hands locked behind his neck pulling Spike to him. Kissing him, hard and deep and a little desperate. Spike is half -hard, and Xander is, and his boy does a slow roll and grind, pressing them groin to groin as tight as he can. Spike arches into the contact - runs his nails lightly up and down Xander's back. He cups the taut buttocks in his hands and kneads - opens Xander wide, hearing his heart start to pound, smelling clean sweat and warm musk. Xander breaks the kiss, gasping, his head going back and his hands threading through Spike's hair.

"You ready for me?" Spike murmurs, and Xander lowers his head - looks at Spike from under his lashes, eyes glittering and mouth curving in a wicked smile.

"Always ready for you, Spike. Feel...." Spike slips one hand closer - runs his fingers down the warm crevice and finds slickness; Xander, all prepared. Want sparks through him, like a pulse of liquid fire, and Spike groans softly.

"Boy Scout," Spike chuckles, and spends a few minutes just probing - feeling - making Xander thrust a hard and slippery-wet cock into his belly - making him dig his nails into Spike's shoulders a little.

"C'mon Spike, fuck..." Xander whispers, and Spike positions himself - pushes up as Xander pushes down and edges into tight, silken heat. Xander makes a whimpering noise and pushes, and then he is tight to Spike's thighs, his body clamping down hard. Spike is breathing now; rapid, ragged breaths and Xander is at his mouth with teeth and tongue and lips, drawing blood in tiny nips that he laps at, moaning.

Spike curls his fingers around Xander's hips - lifts him and pulls him back down, slow rhythm. Xander fights for more, for faster, but Spike won't let him and Xander arches back, his shoulders on the top of the front seat, his hands over Spike's. He is sculpted and palely golden - flushed at nipples and cheeks and the length of his cock. His mouth is open, his lips bruised and smeared with blood and Spike can feel the demon coming out - wanting to claim this incubus that's writhing around and above him. He starts to thrust harder, pounding into willing flesh, and Xander spreads his legs wider, slippery on the leather seat. Spike runs his hands up Xander's back - pulls him in close and licks up his sternum; drags a fang over the pectoral and laps. Tasting salt-sweat and apples, tasting fear and love and pain. Xander pushes his hands through Spike's hair - lifts his head and stares at him. Demon's eyes staring back, Spike knows, but there is only want in that look.

"Tell me, Spike...oh...tell me, tell me...." Xander shudders and thrusts down harder, and Spike's hands are back on his hips. Bruises by dawn, scratches already down his back.

"Gonna leave, pet. Gonna get in this car and drive - just drive. Drive as far and as fast as we want to."

"Don't have to stop," Xander murmurs, and Spike grins at him.

"Never have to stop. We'll crate her up - send her 'cross the pond. Drive wherever we want. Leave this place in our dust, love, that's what we'll do. Leave it in our dust and never look back."

"Never look back," Xander whispers, and he leans forward and sinks his teeth into Spike's neck. A hard, possessive bite, tearing flesh and drawing blood. Spike feels his blood surging from him - feels the bone-deep ache that spreads from his throat to his chest, to his belly. An ache that wants, that needs, and he's slamming himself upwards, now; pounding into Xander and digging his nails into the muscles of Xander's thighs.

Xander does his own damage; worrying the bite and scoring his nails down Spike's chest - across his nipples and to his belly, again and again. Blood and semen and sweat, and Spike comes hard, crying out. He can't wait any more - he shakes his head, dislodging the teeth in his throat and sinking his fingers into Xander's hair - yanking his head over and driving his fangs in deep. Xander's blood is nectar - is life - and he groans as he drinks. Xander's body stutters into a mindless frenzy, thrusting his cock into Spike's belly - clamping down hard on Spike's cock that's still hard enough, inside him. He comes a moment later, hot and slippery between them, 'oh' and 'ooh' and 'Ssspike…', his voice hoarse.

They slump together, after, and Spike hugs Xander to him hard as he can without hurting him. He cleans the bite and kisses it gently - extends the kisses to jaw and cheek and mouth, slowly. Xander is shaking and Spike pulls away a little - nuzzles cheek to cheek.

"All right love?"

"Yeah. I'm alright. Love you."

"Love you too." Xander leans into him and they both simply rest there. Spike inhales slowly, deeply - scent of leather and the sea, of warm metal. Scent of his boy, all around him - of himself. Those scents so mingled and mixed there's no teasing them apart. It's right that it's like that. Once upon a time it was Dru; Dru's scent and Dru's blood, Dru's voice in his ear and Dru's self, invading him. But he's shed that like a duck sheds water, and her blood doesn't call to him, anymore. The pain she brought erasing the pleasure for all time. Now it's Xander, through him like the sweetest poison - the strongest drug. Opium and Lethe, and Spike drowns happily.

Before dawn they're back at the mansion, and three minutes past sunset sees them gone; shaking the dust from their shoes and not looking back, not once.



Curiosity Killed the Cat


"It's not like I thought it would be," Xander says, and Spike blows smoke up towards the ceiling - puts his head on his hand and leans on his elbow, studying his boy. Xander stares up at the same ceiling, idly running his fingers over Spike's thigh.

"It never is, love," Spike says, and Xander grins at him.


Sunnydale is five years in the past; five years of the world unspooling before and behind them like a movie, like a really offbeat documentary. Five years of Xander making discoveries about himself, about the world. Changing his views, and his hair, and his clothes. Changing the way he fights and the way he talks. Even the way he fucks. There's more confidence in him now - he's more willing to take control, to take command, and Spike likes that.

He still asks Spike to fight him sometimes - to let him struggle against his demons like some rabid dog in a kennel. He still dreams, and cries sometimes when he dreams. But he's put away some things, and taken on new things, and if he isn't the same boy that begged to be taken away, all those years ago, there's still some of that fear and that sadness lurking in the depths of his soul. Hyena-soul that has turned vicious from time to time.

Spike thinks about that, about the incident in Berlin. Slayer wanna-bes, coming at them at high noon, and Spike trapped in the back of their flat, doing what he can with thrown knives and, finally, chunks of cinder-block dug out of the wall. Xander on his own against five, who'd torn the curtains down and sprayed holy water everywhere. Trying to take him alive, maybe, Spike was never sure. But Xander had snatched up an axe and dove into them; wielded honed steel like it was nothing, like it was a fencing foil.

Elegant and savage in ripped black jeans, his hair across his face and blood on his hands - on his chest - scarlet dapples on pale-gold skin. He'd aimed for knees and spines and ribs - he'd aimed for damage, not death, and let them lie in their own blood and anguish while he was scrubbing the place down and re-hanging curtains so that Spike could walk without getting hurt. Watching Spike finish them off until nearly sunrise and then letting Spike take him in that abattoir; headboard creaking in his hands as Spike had pounded into him; mouth open and letting out a stream of profanity and endearments as Spike knotted his fists in Xander's hair and sank his fangs into his shoulders, his back, his throat.

Hyena-soul, but the heart of a child. Buying Spike stupid gifts; little plastic monsters and a model of the DeSoto, bootleg copies of CD's from every country that had them, so he's got 'Never Mind the Bollocks....' in German and Japanese and Vietnamese and Russian. Laughing over the same old movies and over new ones, still rambling on in high-school-geek mode when some new science fiction movie or comic catches his eye.

Never once in five years has he suggested going back. Never once in five years has he spoken about Sunnydale in more then the most cursory way. Until a month ago.

Lying in bed in Shanghai, drinking tea and smoking opium and watching Spike clean and sharpen a favorite knife.

"Let's go back, Spike," he'd said, and Spike had glanced up at him, eyebrow cocked.

"Go back where, pet?"

"Back to America. Back to Sunnydale." Dark eyes never wavering from his and Spike had frowned and put the knife down - wiped oily hands on a rag and come to settle cross-legged on the bed.

"Why d'you wanna go back there, Xander?" An infinitesimal puff on the blown-glass pipe and Xander sets it aside, leaves it smoldering in an ashtray. He leans over and kisses Spike, green taste of tea and sweet smoke, faint tang of apples. Pulls back and contemplates Spike, head to one side and fingers resting lightly on Spike's knee.

"It's time for it. I just...need to."

"The Hellmouth's still open; bound to be a Watcher there, new Slayer. It's dangerous, pet."

"You afraid?" Xander's mouth is serious but his eyes are laughing, and Spike let's the demon out, baring fangs in a mock snarl.

"You saying I'm a coward, Xanderrr?" Growling his name and Xander moves into a crouching position, head lowered and hands flexing on the worn, striped sheets.

"Yeah, I guess I am," he says, and launches himself. They collide - roll - end up on the floor, tea splashed across Spike's leg and Xander laughing helplessly into Spike's ribs. They make love slow and sweet and Spike forgets about the Hellmouth for a couple of days, until Xander mentions it again, and then they fight for a week. Xander won't really say why - Spike can tell he's hiding something - and Spike won't agree until he knows everything. So, impasse, and they leave Shanghai in mutual silence and discontent, going south to Hong Kong and catching a container ship east.

Xander has perfected certain skills with small engines, appliances, electrical things; he can nearly always get a job fixing something or other. It's a hassle to stow away, and not nearly as comfortable as having an actual berth. The crew regards Spike as some sort of whore and Spike does absolutely nothing to change their minds; takes to lounging around shirtless, his jeans half-undone and a sullen, bruised look that screams 'sex was just had here'. Xander thinks it's funny, even though he has to throw a couple punches to get them off his back. He's changed in that respect, as well - doesn't mind a fight, doesn't mind a little blood, and doesn't much care what the world thinks of him, anymore. And Spike thinks the bloody lip and bruises are a good look on him, and he makes sure to make Xander scream a little, crammed tight into their bunk and rolling with the pitch and yaw of the sea.

They fetch up in L.A. and Xander wonders aloud if they should go and see Angel - drive him crazy for a few days. Spike almost agrees but in the end it's Xander who says no, and they drive out of L.A. in the fading wash of post-industrial sunset, all mercurochrome red and bruise-blue, stained with banks of dirty-cotton smog.

Sunnydale is the same as it ever was; middle-America at its blinkered best, and they can't believe how oblivious the people are. Can't believe the new high-school got built right on top of the old one, and they read in stunned silence the plaque that commemorates it to 'Mayor Richard Wilkins III' and his years of selfless service to the children of Sunnydale.

Xander is looking at the building as if he might just blow it up again and Spike is wondering where they could lay their hands on some C-4 when someone flies out of the dark and lands on Xander. Some skinny little red-headed girl who gouges Xander's shoulder-blade with a stake and manages, through sheer surprise, to knock the breath out of him. Spike pounces - wrenches her up and bites - and after a minute or so she's sagging to the ground, her eyes rolling up in her head. And oh fuck but it's the same - rocket fuel in his veins and Spike looking down at the Slayer he's nearly killed. He's hauling Xander to his feet, and they both look the girl over. Maybe fifteen, too small and skinny to look like much of a threat. Stake rolling free of a lax hand and a water pistol of Holy water in the waist of her jeans.

"Slayer?" Xander asks, and Spike takes in a huge breath and laughs, catching Xander around the neck and kissing him breathless.

"Oh fuckin' yeah. You weren't around, last time; it's like drinking liquid cocaine, pet, like meth straight to my veins." He's already hard, already wanting and Xander threads his hand back through Spike's hair - wrenches his head over and bites, gleefully.

"Guess I'm in for a long night, huh?" he purrs into Spike's ear, and they go back to the hotel, eager to ride this blood's high, forgetting the half-dead Slayer lying crumpled by the sidewalk. Bad odds for her making it through the night but they don't really care.

Sometime that night - that dawn - when the fucking has slowed to loving and Xander is lying on his side, curled up behind Spike and just rocking in, slow and gentle...he starts talking about his life before Spike - about Sunnydale. About his parents, something he's almost never done. About the gang, the Scoobies, and Spike hasn't heard that word out of his mouth in years. Spike listens, enveloped in heat and caress and the low drone of Xander's voice. Hearing all the reasons Xander came to the mansion and kissed a crippled vampire. Hearing all the reasons he stayed.

"'Member the wreck?" Xander murmurs, his hand on Spike's belly, his cock pressing that so-sensitive place, and Spike nods - lays his head back on Xander's shoulder and sees that night in his head. Driving down through the Grampian Mountains in Scotland, near Dalwhinnie. Some drunken shite in a Land Rover and a God's awful mess of broken glass and twisted metal. The DeSoto crushed beyond repair and Xander still and white on the verge, his chest hitching and catching and not moving right - not sounding right. The drunk staggering out to sit on a rock and hold his head - cut face and broken wrist, nothing else. Spike bleeding, cursing a broken arm and leaning over Xander; pressing his torn wrist to a slack mouth and begging whatever gods heed the evil undead that he wake up, that he just open his fucking eyes, Xander, fuck's sake just please open your fucking eyes.

He had, after a bit, opened them and groaned in pain and slowly sat up. When Spike was sure he was back - could sit there and breathe and live on his own - he'd turned on the drunk and taken him to pieces. Let the fragrant blood steam out onto the ground because he wouldn't have it in his body. Carried Xander seven miles to some house and played at being human long enough to get in. A week, in that house, with the old couple who lived their and three concerned neighbors stacked like cordwood in a listing shed out back.

And Xander, half awake and half not, in and out of awareness and lost in dreams - drinking whatever Spike gave him and gaining a little more of that awareness, that otherness, as vampire blood knit flesh and bone and brought him slowly back. The hyena-mind, that so far had simply been a lurking ferocity easily put aside now came to the fore, and after the wreck Xander went over entirely into 'vampire' hours, and joined Spike on his hunts more often.

"I remember that," Spike breathes, lost in an orgasm that seems to have lasted an hour - rolling waves of sensation that ebb and crest, over and over, but don't seem to end.

"I want you to finish it, Spike. Finish it." Xander whispers, and Spike knows what he's asking.


It's a terrifying thing, to watch him die. He's done whatever he can to keep that slow, steady heartbeat unchanged for nearly a decade, and it's all he can do to lie next to his boy and simply let it slow, slow...stutter and catch and stop; silence so deafening Spike's ears almost ring, and he clutches the cooling body close to him, holding tight. A century and a half of being the living dead and suddenly he's seven again, praying for the magic of match-head to candle-wick - praying for that spark to come back, come back, oh please come back. Please don't let one-hundred thousand years of resurrection fail this night, this time.

He shivers and wonders if Xander's soul and the demon will cross paths somewhere in the ether above where they lay. He wonders if maybe the soul ever really leaves at all, because when he woke with grave-dirt on his face and in his mouth, he didn't feel its loss. Didn't feel as if that great sword hung over his head, promising damnation at every breath. Didn't feel hellhounds on his trail, or fire licking his heels. He had only felt fear, and disgust, and hunger. And love; for his family, for Drusilla. Even for his mortal mother, though that had ended...quite badly. He wonders what Xander will feel, and if it will be the same.

Lying there in the dusty remains of the bed he'd gotten for Drusilla, years ago. The one she abandoned for Angelus...the one he kept in satin and downy cotton for Xander, even though he never said. Xander's choice, to be here - nostalgia or the completion of a circle, or simply human desire, to relive the things that made him happy. Whatever the reason, the faint dusty smells of his old family and his old life make Spike shiver, and he curls close to his boy and waits, waits.


"It's not like I thought it would be."

"It never is, love." Xander grins, and sits up - stretches hard and then looks down at his hands, at himself. Touches his chest and then presses two fingers to his neck, feeling for what isn't there. He looks unsettled for a moment, and then he looks around him, studying the dim room with eyes that glitter gold.

"It's - bright. And I can smell.... That's Dru, isn't it, that smell like...perfume.

"Lily of the Valley," Spike says, watching him.

Xander takes in a deep breath - another - his mouth slightly open, tasting as much as smelling. "Angelusss..." he hisses, and Spike laughs; flicks his cigarette away in a shower of sparks that Xander tracks like a cat, instant attention, slight twitch of muscles as if he wants to chase it down.

"At least you know what to hate," Spike says, and Xander rolls up on his knees - leans over Spike and rubs his cheek along Spike's chest - his shoulders and throat and jaw.

"And I know what to love, too. Sssspike...." He's flattening himself down over Spike, rubbing his whole body over Spikes, fluid as a snake, heavy and cool. Spike arches and pulls him close - rolls them over and regards his boy.

"Are you sorry?"

Xander opens his eyes wide - morphs from the demon to human and looks as Spike warily. "Do I look sorry? I asked you for it, Spike. I wanted it for...a while. Just had to get up the courage to tell you."

"Why courage, pet?"

Xander shrugs a little, opens his legs and settles Spike against him, hard flesh to hard flesh. "Wasn't sure if you' it. If you'd want -"

"What, want you? Want us?"

"Want it forever. Want me that long." Xander closes his eyes and pushes his head back into the pillow; arches his throat up, offering, wanting. Spike leans down and kisses the length of cool skin - bites ever so gently, just letting his fangs slide in and rest there. Xander shivers under him - wraps arms and legs around him and holds on tight.

"Never been a keeper," he murmurs, and Spike twists and pushes at Xander's legs - sinks into flesh cool and tight and still slick.

"Are now," Spike says, moving just so, just right, and it's like family again, familiarity in scent and taste - in the feel that's so different from human. Only this time he's not last - not least - not the one who has to work and work and work to make a place and make a home. This time he is what Xander says he is; beloved, wanted, family. All Xander wants and all his, for years so far into the future they're impossible to imagine. Satisfaction in that - contentment so sweet it aches.

Later, when they're driving away - heading back out and thinking about going north, this time, into unexplored places and twilight forests - Xander very carefully lifts one foot and then the other, brushing his shoes off and then his hands.

Leaving the dust behind.